Issa: Obama Administration Must Explain Padded ObamaCare Enrollment Figures

Published: Nov 20, 2014

CMS Caught Adding Nearly 400,000 Dental Plans in Sept. Announcement to Obscure Enrollment Decline

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., today released the following statement on the Obama Administration’s claim that exaggerated ObamaCare enrollment figures obscuring the fact that one million individuals dropped out of ObamaCare since May 2014 was just a “mistake”.

“Faced with large numbers of Americans running for an exit from ObamaCare, instead of offering the public an accurate accounting, the Administration offered numbers that obscured and downplayed the number of dropouts. Now they’re saying this was just a ‘mistake.’ The claim that this was only accident stretches credulity. The Administration misreported ObamaCare’s enrollment figures not once, but twice, and officials cautiously changed their statements from ‘health plans’ to ‘MarketPlace coverage,’” the Chairman said.

“HHS must provide a clear and detailed account of who knew about this decision and when they knew it. This Administration still appears to be calling its ObamaCare transparency plan from the Jonathan Gruber playbook: dismissing the American public’s right to know with the same deceptive arrogance that helped them pass the bill in the first place,” the Chairman concluded.

Background:

·         On September 18, 2014, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the Committee that there were 7.3 million “Americans enrolled in Health Insurance Marketplace coverage” under ObamaCare.

·         On October 1, 2014, the Committee requested complete, unredacted copies of the monthly enrollment reports provided by insurance issuers to CMS. On November 6th, after weeks of delays, CMS finally provided the enrollment reports underlying the 7.3 million enrollment figure disclosed in September.

·         Committee staff discovered that nearly 400,000 of the 7.3 million enrollments reported by CMS are stand-alone dental plans, rather than health insurance. Committee staff identified nearly 300 plans that averaged monthly premiums of $60 or less, with many premiums averaging less than $10 a month. After matching the Plan IDs for these “outlier plans” against CMS’ own public database, investigators were able to determine that these plans are stand-alone dental coverage.

·         Although the Committee identified nearly 400,000 dental plan enrollments, the figure could certainly be higher due to high-cost dental plans with premiums above the Committee’s $60 outlier threshold. The Committee was able to identify at least two such dental plans with monthly premiums above the $60 dollar threshold.

·         CMS did not publically clarify that the new numbers included dental plans, which they were including in their tally for the first time. Comparatively, in May 2014 the agency released plan selection figures for health insurance plans and dental enrollments separately, leading the media and public to conclude that the September reports referred specifically to medical health insurance coverage.

·         By including nearly 400,000 dental plan enrollments, CMS padded their September figure and obscured the fact that ObamaCare’s health plan coverage dropped from an expected 8 million sign-ups in May 2014 to 6.9 million effectuated enrollments in August.

·         Since the Committee’s discovery, HHS has confirmed that approximately 380,000 of the plans were, in fact, dental plans. Moreover, HHS revised its October 15th ObamaCare enrollment figure from 7.1 million to 6.7 million after the Committee’s findings were released.

 

·         Administration officials carefully parsed their statements in an effort to mislead the American people. CMS Administrator Tavenner carefully worded her testimony at the Oversight Committee’s September 18th hearing to say: “[W]e have 7.3 million Americans enrolled in the health insurance marketplace coverage.” On September 23rd, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell commented at the Brookings Institute that “7.3 million people signed up for marketplace plans, paid their premiums, and have access to affordable care.”

·         As a result of CMS’ deception, many media outlets reported Tavenner’s figure erroneously, reporting that the number referred to “medical health insurance” or “private health coverage.”