Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin earned “four Pinocchios” from The Washington Post’s fact-checker for repeating debunked numbers about Obamacare enrollment.
“Bob, let’s look at the bottom line. The bottom line is this: 10 million Americans have health insurance today who would not have had it without the Affordable Care Act. 10 million,” Durbin told CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Sunday.
The Post’s Glenn Kessler lamented in a column Monday that “talking points persist even in the face of new evidence negating the previous claims.”
Durbin’s office didn’t back down. “Fact check after fact check has confirmed that more than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage through Affordable Care Act,” Durbin’s spokesman Max Gleischman told the Post.
The biggest chunk of Durbin’s claim comes from a CMS report indicating that over 6 million Americans have signed up for Medicaid coverage between October and December of last year. But as analysts have pointed out, just a small portion of that can be attributed to Obamacare.
The six million figure includes those that renewed Medicaid coverage they already had and those signing up for standard Medicaid programs, not the Obamacare expansion.
Consulting firm Avalere Health found last week that only 1.1 million to 1.8 million Medicaid enrollments can be attributed to Obamacare — and that’s including sign-ups for traditional coverage due to the increased press for the program. (RELATED: Report: Obama’s Medicaid expansion claims not even close)
That would cut Durbin’s estimates down by over 4 million, but despite widespread media coverage of the Avalere study, the senator failed to take it into account.
Durbin was also on shaky ground with private insurance. While 3 million Americans have selected a plan via the health law’s exchanges, many insurers and consulting firms have warned that most of their customers were covered before Obamacare, and switched over due to canceled plans or lucrative subsidies.
A McKinsey & Co. survey found just 11 percent of exchange customers were previously uninsured. The Wall Street Journal also noted individual insurers had found low estimates as well — insurance agency HealthMarkets Inc. reported that 65 percent of enrollees had prior coverage; Priority Health of Michigan surveyed its customers and said 75 percent had insurance before Obamacare.
Durbin’s not alone: President Obama doubled down on the claim, first citing in during his State of the Union address and repeating the figure in his pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. (RELATED: FACT CHECK: Obama again misleads about Obamacare in the State of the Union)
“Even if one took the high end of these estimates, the most one could claim is that about 4 million people have gained insurance because of the Affordable Care Act,” Kessler concluded, “but that’s being extraordinarily generous.”
The Washington Post fact-checker has been critical of stories questioning Obamacare’s coverage claims in the past.
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