News broke on Monday that maybe 50,000, tops, have enrolled in Obamacare. News broke later that that number may not be the number that the White House releases at the end of this week. The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff quotes an administration official who says that “enroll” will get a broad definition in the official numbers.
Health insurance plans only count subscribers as enrolled in a health plan once they’ve submited a payment. That is when the carrier sends out a member card and begins paying doctor bills.
When the Obama administration releases health law enrollment figures later this week, though, it will use a more expansive definition. It will count people who have purchased a plan as well as those who have a plan sitting in their online shopping cart but have not yet paid.
“In the data that will be released this week, ‘enrollment’ will measure people who have filled out an application and selected a qualified health plan in the marketplace,” said an administration official, who requested anonymity to frankly describe the methodology.
The disparity in the numbers is likely to further inflame the political fight over the Affordable Care Act. Each side could choose a number to make the case that the health law is making progress or failing miserably.
That “each side” formulation isn’t reporting, it’s building a false equivalence. On the one hand, we have a White House that has refused to report hard numbers since Obamacare’s launch. Media have taken it upon themselves to try to read tea leaves or kill a chicken and read its entrails to divine the numbers that the White House is hiding.
Kliff has just reported that the White House fully intends to spin the number to its advantage by maximizing the definition of “enroll” beyond the definition that the health insurance industry uses. Full stop. Story told. No need to blame other reporters who are just trying to obtain the same numbers that Kliff was trying to get when she rung up an administration official and granted them anonymity to say whatever they want.
Even Chuck Todd is saying that the White House won’t be able to spin how bad things are for Obamacare.