Six Million Obamacare Enrollees (Or 5, Whatever)

by Patrick Brennan

HHS gleefully announced via ThinkProgress today that 6 million people have enrolled in the Obamacare state and federal exchanges, just four days before open enrollment closes for this year. Which sounds tantalizingly close to the CBO’s projection and the White House’s one-time goal of 7 million enrollees (though the CBO number was their projection for average enrollees over the course of 2014, given that people will drop out and some people are eligible to enroll later in the year, if they lose a job, etc.)

But it’s not really as close as HHS is claiming: 6 million people haven’t enrolled in the sense of committing to buy a plan and paying for it — 6 million have selected a plan on the federal or state exchange they’re using.  

Of them, somewhere between 75 and 85 percent are probably actually paying their first month’s premium. Further, non-negligible numbers of Americans will, due to various extensions the Obama administration has codified, be able to enroll after the four days they set out as the deadline. So maybe HHS could update its slick graphic a little:

The phrasing here isn’t really accurate either: Six million people have selected plans on the exchanges, but plenty of them had health coverage last year, too, so their coverage this year isn’t really “thanks to” the ACA. Though it’s also so broadly phrased that it probably is true: While the extent of the Medicaid expansion has been way overstated, that plus the provision to keep under-26-year-olds on their parents’ plans means that easily 6 million Americans — a good number more, really — now do have health coverage because of the ACA. But that’s not what the graphic is supposed to be pointing out.

See here for some cleverer and more felicitous inversions of #GetCovered agitprop.

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