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Topics: Obamacare

Significantly fewer uninsured Americans gaining coverage under Obamacare than expected

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,Obamacare,Health Care Exchanges

With the official deadline for Americans to sign up for coverage through President Obama's health care law set for Monday at midnight, the Los Angeles Times is out with a story highlighting the millions of previously uninsured Americans who have gained coverage as a result of the law. But the numbers cited in the article are still significantly below projections of the Congressional Budget Office, both at the time the law was passed and as recently as February.

According to the Times, which cites a study from Rand Corp., "At least 6 million people have signed up for health coverage on the new marketplaces, about one-third of whom were previously uninsured." That suggests that two million uninsured Americans gained coverage as a result of the law.

Additionally, the article reports, "At least 4.5 million previously uninsured adults have signed up for state Medicaid programs." So between Medicaid and the private exchanges, that makes 6.5 million previously uninsured Americans who have now gained coverage.

At the time the law was passed, however, in March 2010, the CBO projected that in total, the ranks of the uninsured would be reduced by 19 million in 2014 relative to what would have been the case if not law had been passed.

It's true that since that time, the Supreme Court ruled that the Medicaid expansion, as designed, was unconstitutional, giving states the option of not expanding Medicaid -- which limited the effect of that provision.

But even as recently as February -- when analysts knew how many states weren't going along with the Medicaid expansion and were aware of the early technical glitches facing the rollout of Obamacare -- the CBO still projected that the law would reduce the number of uninsured by 13 million.

Even adding the 3 million young adults under 26 who were added to their parents' insurance policies, the resulting 9.5 million total would still be significantly below expectations.

This doesn't even consider the number of people who have signed up for insurance through Obamacare who will actually be enrolled by consistently paying their insurance premiums.

The bottom line is that the best available evidence points to Americans gaining coverage due to the law -- a result that one would expect given the $2 trillion dedicated to that purpose over the next decade. But with all the progress that's been made since the exchanges were barely functional last fall, the gains are still well below expectations.

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