Topics: Barack Obama

Is Obamacare a giant churn operation?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Byron York,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Health Care,Healthcare.gov

There's growing optimism among Obamacare advocates that the Affordable Care Act could reach seven million sign-ups by the end of March. The administration at first embraced the number -- which originally came from the Congressional Budget Office -- only to back away from it when the problems of the federal Obamacare website became apparent. Now, with word that 2.1 million have so far signed up for private insurance, some of that pre-rollout confidence is coming back.

It's well known that in its effort to reach seven million, the administration redefined "enrollment" to mean anyone who has chosen a health plan — not just those who have actually purchased one. So there are serious questions about the 2.1 million figure. But perhaps the bigger question about the Obamacare number is: How many of the people who are now purchasing coverage on the exchanges are doing so because they lost the coverage they already had because it did not meet Obamacare standards?

"I expect at least 80 percent of those in the existing individual health insurance market to lose their coverage by the end of 2014," writes respected health care expert Bob Laszewski. "What we don't know is just how many of these people had to buy new coverage on January 1." Piecing together bits of data from California, Washington state and other places, Laszewski concludes that it's likely large numbers of new enrollees come from those who lost coverage under Obamacare. "Washington State might report 100,000 private plan enrollments by year-end," Laszewski writes. "But if they cancelled 130,000 people who can only get a subsidized policy in their exchange, is this a big accomplishment?"

Obamacare was supposed to insure the uninsured. It is doing that, in relatively small numbers. But it appears a large part of the Democrats' national health care scheme is a kind of giant churn operation, forcing Americans out of existing coverage into Obamacare coverage and then touting the number of new Affordable Care Act enrollees. The real numbers will take a while to sort out, but with Obamacare, it's safe to assume the administration's claims are less than they seem.

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