The PJ Tatler

Thanks to Obamacare, Eligibility for Medicaid is Surging

Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post buries the lead, in her second paragraph.

Just about 1.2 million people have gained health coverage through Obamacare, according to new federal data released Wednesday morning.

Approximately 365,000 of those people have purchased private insurance and 803,000 have been determined to be eligible for the public Medicaid program. These numbers count data from both October and November, and show an especially quick growth in HealthCare.gov enrollment.

Answering her first sentence: And about 5 million have lost their health coverage because of Obamacare. That’s a net loss.

Answering her second, is “determined to be eligible” the new “this person has enrolled and actually has health coverage now”? Are we grading Obama and his healthcare law on that steep a curve now? He gets a trophy just for showing up, even if he ruins everything?

It seems to me that the second sentence renders the first sentence wildly incorrect.

It also seems to me that Obamacare was not sold as a program to dramatically boost the number of Americans who were determined to be eligible for Medicaid. It was sold as a program that would make private healthcare more affordable and more accessible. Driving millions of Americans to Medicaid is not a victory, unless busting state budgets and driving federal spending to unsustainable new heights was the goal.

Kliff does her best to put a positive spin on things, but when government forces people to do things or face off with the IRS, they end up doing those things that government demands. The pro-choice party has removed this choice from consideration. But even with the threat of force lurking behind Obama’s smiley face, the number of people who have enrolled for private health care because of Obamacare remains pitiful, and well behind the number of people who have lost their healthcare because of Obamacare. Kliff doesn’t do the plus-minus thing.

There’s another bit worth looking at. Why does the number of Americans now “determined eligible for Medicaid” dwarf the number of Americans who have signed up for private health insurance via Obamacare? Does that not suggest a couple of things — mainly, that the weak economy is making private healthcare less affordable for more Americans? That possibility is left entirely unexplored, even though “why” is one of the basic questions journalists are supposed to ask and answer in their work.

Kliff also doesn’t look into this story about how Healthcare.gov is sending ineligible people to Medicaid. That might just blow a large hole in her entire post.

Additionally, many doctors have opted out of Medicaid over the past several years, as government reimbursement rates have declined. Obamacare doesn’t change that. What impact might this fact have on Obama’s “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” promise?

Again, Wonkblog doesn’t see fit to ask or seek an answer.