Have you noticed the dearth of information about Obamacare coming from the White House?
You would think they were guarding nuclear codes or President Obama’s college transcripts for all the secrecy that surrounds information about the progress of Obamacare. We certainly hear all the good news that’s to be had, that’s for sure. So many happy people getting coverage. So many ecstatic people on Medicaid. The website purring like a kitten.
The problem for the administration is that the morsels of good news have been so few and far between that it seems that days, even weeks go by without any news about how the implementation of the law is going.
How many people have signed up and paid their first month’s premium? How many are young and healthy? How many are old and sick? How many who had their insurance cancelled have been able to get coverage on the exchanges? How much has been spent on the website to date?
Lots of questions — zero answers. That’s why the House GOP wants to formalize the reporting process by passing a law forcing the White House to give them weekly updates.
House Republicans will call up legislation next week that requires weekly reports from the Obama administration on how many people are using the HealthCare.gov website and signing up for health insurance under the law.
Members will consider the Exchange Information Disclosure Act, which Republicans say is needed because the Obama administration has failed to offer details about ObamaCare participation levels.
Since the launch of the troubled website in October, the administration has offered sporadic updates about participation. But those updates have mostly frustrated Republicans who are seeking more detailed data, and who are also pressing for more information about what officials are doing to fix the websites various problems.
The bill up next week, H.R. 3362, would address both complaints. First, it would require weekly updates on the number of unique website visitors, new accounts, and new enrollments in a qualified health plan, as well as the level of coverage. All of this data would have to be provided on a state-by-state basis.
Secondly, it would require a weekly update on efforts to fix problems people have had logging into the website and enrolling in coverage. Reports detailing all of this information would have to be submitted to Congress every Monday until the end of March 2015.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), said in November that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must give states data about statewide enrollment if they are to help implement the law. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who sponsored a Senate version of the bill, said there’s no reason why HHS can’t provide the data on a regular basis.
“With Wikileaks and Edward Snowden spilling our beans every day, what’s happening on the Obamacare exchanges is the only secret left in Washington,” he said in October. “The National Security Administration should learn some lessons from Secretary Sebelius.”
One of the pieces of information Republicans want is the extent to which young, healthy people are signing up versus those more likely to need medical care. The bill from Terry and Alexander doesn’t require that information, but it does require weekly reports on enrollees by zip code, which could provide clues about the kind of people signing up for coverage.
Additionally, Republicans have demanded information about how many people have actually made their first monthly payment for an ObamaCare health plan. But the bill does not address this issue, and as payments are made directly to insurance companies, it’s not expected that the government would have this information.
If I were the secretary of HHS, I would want regular updates from insurance companies about Obamacare enrollees. Maybe just raw numbers — something the insurance companies should be able to supply without much trouble. And I would also be in constant contact with exchanges in other states, tabulating enrollments among other things.
The point is, this information could probably be generated on a single spreadsheet from information flowing into CMS. But then, we’re talking about a government operation and just because something seems logical and efficient doesn’t necessarily mean they would have thought of doing it.
It’s time for the administration to stop playing politics with Obamacare numbers. We’re in a crisis entirely of their making and the idea that they’re playing hide and seek with statistics so that Republicans don’t gain a political advantage is absurd. Millions have lost their insurance and can’t afford an Obamacare replacement. Millions more will almost certainly be in the same boat by the end of this year.
But nothing can be done unless accurate information is shared with Congress. Trying to mask the failure of Obamacare is only compounding a crisis that has to be addressed.