House Republicans have spent the last few months decrying the lack of “complete, full and transparent” Obamacare enrollment data being released by the White House as the number of sign-ups climbed higher and higher. But given their own opportunity to set the bar a little higher, they fell remarkably short.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report Wednesday that said only 67 percent of HealthCare.gov enrollees had paid their first premium, which formally initiates their coverage, as of April 15. But, unfortunately for the GOP, it seems their report is also incomplete and opaque in its own way.
Right-wingers practically rejoiced: 67 percent! That made the Obama administration’s victory lap at the beginning of April as the law surpassed 8 million sign-ups look patently ridiculous. That might have been the explicit intention of the committee.
“Tired of receiving incomplete pictures of enrollment in the health care law, we went right to the source and found that the administration’s recent declarations of success may be unfounded,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said in a statement.
The problem, as explained by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt, is the House GOP’s time table. Almost four million people signed up in March and the first half of April. Anybody who signed up in the last weeks of the enrollment period didn’t have to make their first payment until at least April 30.
In other words, the Republican report counted everyone who has enrolled through HealthCare.gov, but couldn’t have counted everyone who has paid their premiums because it cut off at April 15. Considering the enrollment surge in the final weeks, that’s a huge caveat.
The GOP report did note some of these nuances eventually, but the committee did not include a month-by-month breakdown that might have cleared things up. It also didn’t include any data from the 14 state marketplaces.
But House GOP aides and other conservatives seemed content to focus on the 67 percent number alone.
But it gets worse. Because the payment deadline just passed, it’s not yet clear what percentage had paid, but just before the House GOP released its findings, several insurance company executives directly undermined them.
A top executive for WellPoint, one of the largest insurance companies in the country, said that 90 percent of its enrollees had paid. The CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s top lobbying group, put the share of payments at 85 percent.
This all might be beside the point for Republicans, though. As soon as White House officials started calling the Energy and Commerce report into question, they leapt: How could the White House know, unless it had its own data that it hadn’t released?
One might wonder as if that was the intention all along.
“If President Obama disputes the information provided by the insurance companies,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said in a statement on the report, “he should direct HHS to immediately release complete enrollment data, including how many people were previously insured.”