January 15, 2014

The latest Obamacare spin: We're not worried about the missing youngsters (updated)

Latest numbers out on Obamacare enrollments note what's been becoming more and more evident over the last month or two: Younger people aren't signing up in the way that Team Obama had hoped or planned.

Once again, we get a content-free comment:
Officials on Monday said they were basically pleased with the percentage of young people and said it was consistent with their expectations and with the experience in Massachusetts, which put in place a similar kind of public health insurance exchange.
OK, so what are the age ratios in Romneycare?

Well, it's 19-34, rather than 18-34, but, over the first 11 months, 26.5 percent of people in that age range signed up for that. That's versus the 24 percent at the federal level.

Whether that's enough of a difference to be worthwhile, and whether Massachusetts, with a population generally healthier than the US as a whole, on average, translates adequately to the entire country, remains to be seen.

The flip side is that we have 3 months of Obamacare signups vs 11 months of Romneycare. Apples to apples on monthly numbers has Massachusetts lower, at 20 percent. Flip side to that is that Obamacare was in the news semi-regularly from the day Obama signed it into law, and that federal "navigators," even while hindered in some states, are another difference.

Also, Massachusetts had a smaller pool of uninsured, among other things, than the nation as a whole. So, Obamacare theoretically had more low-hanging fruit.

Add this to the mix:
"Financing for Obamacare is going to be paid through taxes, fees and Medicare savings," said Kosali Simon. "Romneycare had some exsting funds for it and got federal funds. Massachusetts paid a lot less for it than what they got from the federal government."  
That's why Romneycare was an easier tweak.

Plus, Romneycare's individual mandate ding, at $1,200, is nearly twice as high as Obamacare's $695. And, Romneycare's employer mandate started on companies with 11 or more employees, not 50 or more, albeit with a smaller employee penalty.

This website illustrates key similarities and differences, including those just above.

And now, of Jan. 15, Team Obama has officially scaled down its targets for enrollment of the younger uninsured.
Administration officials previously said their target was for young adults to make up about 38 percent of Obamacare enrollees. Now that standard is down to about 30 percent. Or maybe even 24 percent—where the mix stands now.
First, those numbers show that Team Obama's claims to be satisfied with enrollment by younger people were full of crap.  Surprised?

National Journal's Baker admits things may improve:
Young-adult enrollment looks OK. It was never expected to hit its final target at this stage; young people will likely sign up at the last minute, and the final deadline to enroll isn't until March.
He adds that Romneycare did OK at 30 percent.

I can see the glass as both two-thirds empty and one-third full. The lower individual mandate price allows more young people to opt out, and especially relatively more healthy ones.

It may not be huge spin, and of course, the GOP is counterspinning. It is spinning, though, and per Baker, it's also goalpost-shifting, in lines with delayed implementation of various requirements, like the employer mandate.

But, at best, it's a gray area, as are claims that Obamacare's pending arrival, vs. the Great Recession or whatever, has kept medical costs reigned in. Since one-third or so of what was "Obamacare" still isn't required, claims that it has had a significant part of reigning in medical costs must be taken with a handful or more of salt grains.

That's why Baker's right, or at least half-right, in another piece — Obamacare can't be a failure if Dear Leader keeps delaying implementation of anything that will be a clusterfuck and spinning whatever has to be trotted out that struggles.

At the same time, and ignoring the conservative spin behind it, per this piece, it does make one wonder about Obamacare's guarantees to insurers. That's why it's laughable for O-bots like Brian Beutler to cite insurers' support for it as proof of how well Obamacare is doing. Hey, Beutler? Be honest — insurers basically have little worry about how it's doing; their only worry is that it doesn't get repealed.

Because of all of this, and seeing the 2010 midterms slaughter, it's no wonder that vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election want as little to do with Obamacare as possible, in many cases.

And, how hard is it to look that information up? The New York Times runs a big story on this, at the top link, and doesn't even offer the Romneycare numbers as comparison, let alone try to drop a bit of analysis in the story.

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