Dem Strategist: Selective Release of Obamacare Data May Backfire

Saturday, 07 Dec 2013 01:54 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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While some states are releasing detailed information about their own insurance exchanges, the Obama administration is releasing only bits of data and metrics that paint a rosy picture of the Obamacare's capabilities, a strategy critics warn may backfire.

“Given the level of suspicion, if they’re not as candid as possible, they’re going to get burned,” Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told The Hill.

HealthCare.gov's traffic numbers, along with error rates and page load times, all positive changes, have been discussed almost every day since late October, after the site's disastrous rollout.

But Obamacare enrollment figures are rarely discussed, nor are leaked sign-up numbers. In addition, the applicants' ages, a guide for judging risk pools, aren't being discussed, and the metrics are giving talking points for Obamacare supporters.

However, the control over what's being released is resulting in more negative stories in the media, and dampening public opinion.

"I understand the tough position [the administration is] in," Manley told The Hill. "Things are moving very quickly, but I hope they release as much data as possible as quickly as possible. Transparency is a key aspect of getting the public to fully support the program."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the site, is also facing criticism for counting people who have not yet paid their first premiums, which are not due until late December as being enrolled.

But meanwhile, states such as California are releasing far more detailed reports. Covered California's information includes a set of charts and graphs that break down enrollees by age, language and region, along with breakdowns detailing federal subsidies or Medi-Cal, the state's healthcare program.

The state is also issuing weekly reports that detail visitors, call volume, and more, CMS does not plan to release sign-up date beyond enrollment numbers.

Friday's report, which showed as many as one of four of the site's forms were flawed in October and November, came under pressure from journalists, but also pointed out a current error rate of 10 percent, meaning people may still have problems come January when they try to use their coverage.

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