Hard to Say How Many 'Uninsured' Signed Up for Obamacare

Image: Hard to Say How Many 'Uninsured' Signed Up for Obamacare

Monday, 24 Feb 2014 08:58 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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There are no real numbers yet to show how many previously uninsured people Obamacare is covering, frustrating supporters and opponents alike.

"It's going to take some time," Edwin Park, vice president for health policy for the Center on Budget and Priority Policies told Politico.  "I know everyone wants to know, 'X percent was uninsured,' but what we know so far is mostly anecdotal, and it's probably not accurately capturing what's going on."

The actual numbers are complicated because the Obama administration has not been able to report accurately how many of the 3.3 million people who have signed up for insurance plans or the 6.3 million who were found eligible for Medicaid were not insured before last October.

The uninsured rate for young adults has dropped, the Census Bureau confirms, mainly because they can stay on their parents' plans until they are 26 years old. According to the Obama administration, 3 million young adults are now covered.

According to a Congressional Budget Office report, the number of uninsured Americans is expected to drop by 13 million this year and by 25 million in 2016.

Part of the problem is there are no questions on either online or paper Obamacare applications about whether people are uninsured when they sign up for coverage, making it difficult for the administration to provide numbers about how much progress is being made when it comes to insuring the uninsured.

The questionnaires ask if people need health coverage, but not if they're uninsured, meaning people who answer that question could need coverage for policies that are about to end, or if they're shopping for a cheaper insurance plan. In addition, the question is optional, so not all applicants answer it.

"We’re not really going to know very accurately for a long time," Joe Antos, a healthcare expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, noted.

In addition, the enrollment season does not end until March 31, and healthcare analysts expect a final wave of people signing up when the deadline nears.

Obamacare supporters have been pointing to a Gallup Poll in January that said the uninsured rate dropped from 17.3 percent to 16.1 percent in one month, but skeptics say it is too early to know what that one-month drop means.

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