GOP Went Fishing For Bad Obamacare News And Came Up Empty

May 2, 2014 6:00 a.m.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the House GOP’s Obamacare survey, which an insurance industry source dismissed as “incredibly rigged” when sharing it with TPM, is the question that it didn’t manage to answer: How many of the law’s enrollees were previously uninsured?

It has been one of the pillars of the Republican efforts to undermine the law; they’ve effectively accused the Obama administration of withholding the data. When the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a survey to insurance companies that sold plans on, they naturally sought the answer they’d long been seeking.

And they got bupkis.

The survey asked companies for the “number of individuals that were previously uninsured.” The problem, according to multiple insurance industry sources, is simple: Most, if not all, insurers haven’t asked enrollees if they were previously uninsured. They just don’t have the data the GOP wants.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee was asking health plans a question they could not answer,” one source, who provided TPM with a copy of the survey, told TPM. “We put N/A in those boxes.”

That might help explain why the GOP readily trumpeted the finding that only 67 percent of enrollees had paid their premium — however flawed it was — but was silent on the fact that they had also inquired about the uninsured question. They didn’t even mention it when releasing the results of the survey.

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House Energy and Commerce Committee staff declined to comment on Thursday.

When pressed by Republicans, the Obama administration has routinely noted that the application did not ask about an applicant’s insurance status.

In a cosmic twist of the knife, the Obama administration released its own information on Thursday, the day after the House GOP’s release. Administration officials warned that the new data wasn’t perfect and could be “unreliable,” but it was the first official data from the administration that got at the same question. asked the 5.2 million enrollees who also applied for financial assistance if they were insured at the time they applied. Only 13 percent said they were, which would suggest 87 were uninsured.

It’s not a perfect metric, by the administration’s own admission. People who had just lost their insurance might report themselves as uninsured, but most wouldn’t consider them to be “previously uninsured.”

But it suggests that even if Republicans got the answers they were seeking, they might not have been what the GOP wanted to find.

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