FACT CHECK: Obama again misleads about Obamacare in the State of the Union

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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If you thought President Obama was done being dishonest about his health care law, think again.

The president repeated a whopper Tuesday night during his State of the Union address.

“Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans,” he said. “More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.”

This claim has long been thoroughly debunked. For starters, the 9 million number includes 3.9 million people who signed up for Medicaid in October and November. But as Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler wrote two weeks ago, the administration is claiming credit for everyone who signed up for Medicaid over that period, not just those who signed up for Medicaid as a result of Obamacare’s eligibility expansion.

“But what these figures do not tell you is how many additional people have joined Medicaid because of the Affordable Care Act,” he wrote. “No one really knows, though some have tried to tease out figures from the data that has been presented.”

Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics estimates that perhaps fewer than 10 percent of the reported 3.9 million Medicaid sign-ups could be attributed to Obamacare.

But the dishonesty doesn’t end there. Included in the president’s 9 million number is also the 3 million people the administration claims have so far signed up for insurance through the Obamacare federal and state exchanges. There are two problems with that number, however. First, we do not know how many of that 3 million number actually paid for their policy and you can’t really be signed up for health insurance without paying for the coverage. Secondly, most of those who signed up for Obamacare through December were people who were reportedly thrown off their health insurance — in many cases because of Obamacare — not Americans who were previously uninsured.

“Early signals suggest the majority of the 2.2 million people who sought to enroll in private insurance through new marketplaces through Dec. 28 were previously covered elsewhere, raising questions about how swiftly this part of the health overhaul will be able to make a significant dent in the number of uninsured,” the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. “Insurers, brokers and consultants estimate at least two-thirds of those consumers previously bought their own coverage or were enrolled in employer-backed plans.”

The Journal article cites a McKinsey & Co. report which figures only 11 percent of those who signed up for health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges were previously uninsured.

Since the Wall Street Journal’s report, the administration has claimed an additional 800,000 people signed up for insurance through the Obamacare exchanges as of Jan. 24, putting alleged Obamacare exchange sign-ups at 3 million. Though, again, we don’t know how many of those 3 million have actually enrolled in coverage by paying for it.

In short, the administration has not released enough information to know exactly how many previously uninsured Americans their law has helped insure, but we have very good reason to believe it is no where near 9 million, much less “more than” 9 million.

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Jamie Weinstein