CMS Propped Up Obamacare Enrollment Total With Dental Plans

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The Obama administration included 400,000 dental plans in its first-year Obamacare enrollment totals without acknowledging that it wasn’t full health insurance, falsely pushing the final number past the administration’s enrollment target.

The actual enrollment total: 6.7 million, not quite meeting the seven million goal provided by the Congressional Budget Office.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services head Marilyn Tavenner announced in September that 7.3 million Americans were still enrolled in health coverage through Obamacare exchanges nationwide. But according to a report from Bloomberg, that data didn’t distinguish between medical and dental insurance plans, which departed from CMS’ usual practice without any acknowledgment.

Had the agency separated out the dental plans as usual, it would have had to admit that Obamacare enrollment has fallen below its target, investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform committee told Bloomberg. The combination hid the fact that over one million health insurance customers had already dropped their coverage.

The CBO had originally projected that Obamacare exchanges would attract seven million customers in its first open enrollment period, although it shifted that estimate down to six million after problems arose with HealthCare.gov and state exchanges. Including the dental plans after sign-ups had dropped plans made it possible for the Obama administration to continue to say that it had met the goal.

It’s a clear departure from the administration’s policy. Health and Human Services released its last detailed enrollment report in May and ceased making regular enrollment updates backed up by data afterwards. But the May report separated medical and dental plans, reporting eight million sign-ups for health insurance and 1.1 million for dental coverage.

Since then, CMS has been much quieter about enrollment totals. CMS chief Tavenner released the 7.3 million enrollment number in a hearing with the Oversight Committee in September, without a formal report or supporting data released to the public.

HHS also announced in November that enrollment had dropped to 7.1 million, another drop partially caused by customers who did not fix problems with their eligibility having their coverage terminated. That update was not accompanied by a full enrollment report, either.

“A mistake was made in calculating the number of individuals with effectuated Marketplace enrollments,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said in a statement to The Daily Caller. “We have determined that individuals who had both Markteplace medical and dental coverage were erroneously counted in our recent announcements. The correct number of individuals with effecuated Marketplace medical coverage as of October 15 is approximately 6.7 million.”

In light of the larger decrease than reported, HHS’ report last week downgrading its expectations for Obamacare’s second open enrollment period is less surprising. While the CBO had projected 13 million total Obamacare health insurance enrollments by the end of Obamacare’s second year, HHS now projects just between 9.1 million and 9.9 million, including just 5.7 million returning customers.

Albright said the 2015 target remains 9.1 million individuals with medical coverage, despite the adjusted enrollment total and promised that “moving forward only individuals with medical coverage will be included in our effectuated enrollment numbers.”

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Sarah Hurtubise