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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about expanding economic opportunity for women and working families, during a visit to Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about expanding economic opportunity for women and working families, during a visit to Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  

Obamacare’s Medicaid coverage is millions less than supporters advertised

The Obama administration announced Friday that 3 million people have received health coverage from Medicaid or the Children’s Insurance Health Plan (CHIP) in the past six months — much lower than the number the White House has long touted.

There have been 11.7 million eligibility determinations since Obamacare launched in October for both the programs, and many have used the determinations as proof Obamacare is working. But the real number of Americans newly covered is barely a quarter of that.

The number dropped so significantly because the group of eligibility determinations included duplicates and Medicaid renewals, not new customers. Some people were determined eligible but opted not to sign up for the welfare program anyway. HHS also notes that enrollment includes only those eligible for full coverage, not more limited benefits.

While the announcement was lauded by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a success for health care reform, it’s a change of tune for Obamacare supporters that have been touting much higher sums before the report came out.

Organizing for America, which controls the @BarackObama Twitter account, went on an publicity spree in January, claiming that Obamacare had covered 6 million people because Medicaid had made almost 4 million eligibility determinations.

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler  stated that Obamacare could claim 3.9 million new Medicaid beneficiaries by January while disputing  a Daily Caller News Foundation report, only to be forced to award his own analysis, OFA’s tweets and all others who used the numbers with Three Pinocchios.

That hasn’t stopped some from continuing to push higher Medicaid numbers. Talking Points Memo claimed several weeks afterward that 6.3 million were enrolled in Medicaid through Obamacare, though they were just eligibility determinations; the Daily Kos writes today that 5-6 million already have Medicaid coverage due to Obamacare.

Now that the real count’s out, it’s clear why using HHS’s original figures without the accompanying data caused a problem. Three months later new Medicaid enrollments are millions lower than the originally advertised.

States that accepted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saw enrollment rise by 8.3 percent compared to the months before Obamacare’s launch and the Medicaid expansion’s effect. States that didn’t accept it also saw a much lower uptick of 1.6 percent.

The 24 states that had no Obamacare expansion program likely saw increased enrollment in the program due to the free advertising from Obamacare and debates over whether to move forward with the massive Medicaid expansion. Those states saw a total increase of around 382,000 enrollments in the states’ standard Medicaid programs.

The numbers don’t make it clear who’s signed up for traditional Medicaid programs and who’s signed up for the expanded Obamacare program, but it’s likely that the Obamacare expansion accounts for less than the 3 million.

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