Questions continue to swirl around enrollment figures and Obamacare, with a new study released on Wednesday estimating that fewer than 2 million people have signed up for Medicaid under President Barack Obama's healthcare law.
Between 1.1 million and 1.8 million people were added to the Medicaid rolls through December as a result of the law, says the report by Avalere Health
, a market analysis firm based in Washington.
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The figures include people who were eligible for the expanded version of the program as well as some who were already eligible but had not previously enrolled.
Either way, the figures fall far short of the 6.3 million Americans in the Medicaid program cited last month by Obama administration officials. That figure also included persons who are renewing their coverage.
Established in 1965, Medicaid is a safety-net health program for low-income people.
Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. Strong Medicaid enrollment was considered crucial to reducing the number of uninsured Americans under Obamacare.
Nearly 48 million Americans do not have health coverage, according to Census Bureau estimates cited on Wednesday by The Washington Post,
and the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 8 million people are expected to enroll in Medicaid this year.
Most Americans must have health insurance starting this year or be fined.
The Medicaid enrollment figures have come under question since the White House disclosed the 6.3 million figure last month — earning "three Pinocchios" from the Fact Checker column
in The Washington Post because of how the numbers were calculated.
The administration arrived at the figure by combining the 2.1 million people who have enrolled under federal and state healthcare insurance exchanges with the 3.9 million who had qualified for coverage on Medicaid through November.
But Glenn Kessler, who writes the Post column, said that the "bottom line" on the 3.9 million figure is that "it tells you almost nothing about how the Affordable Care Act is affecting Medicaid enrollment." He added, "Reporters need to stop using it."
Obama administration officials have since acknowledged that the number was incomplete and included people who were eligible for the program prior to the expansion, the Post reports.
"But the officials have used it — along with figures showing that 3 million people signed up for private plans and another 3 million benefited from a rule allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan — to bolster their claims that the health law is succeeding," the column says.
The Avalere report comes a day after a CBO report was released saying that Obamacare would result in a bigger reduction in working hours than had been previously anticipated.
By 2017, in part because smaller companies will be reducing worker hours to avoid requirements that full-time workers be offered health insurance, there will be the equivalent of 2 million fewer full-time equivalent workers, the report says.
By 2021, there will be 2.3 million fewer full-time workers.
In its analysis, Avalere compared the Medicaid enrollment numbers reported by the White House to the average monthly number of applications submitted over a different three-month period last year, the Post reports.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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