Don’t trust Covered California’s latest round of happy talk

Don’t trust Covered California’s latest round of happy talk

CoveredCalifornia1While the national media increasingly seem to have figured out that Obamacare is a farce, its California version continues to get better press than it should. Stories about the extreme sticker shock faced by CA residents turn up in AP stories about the national problems facing the Affordable Care Act — here’s the latest — but not that many are being generated by state newspapers.

Writing in the U-T San Diego, I explained why Covered California simply can’t be trusted:

“This spring, we had our first evidence. Covered California officials put out news releases and did interviews in which they offered variations on this theme: that far from premiums soaring in 2014 because of new insurance mandates, the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act would result in ‘a home run for consumers.’

“This won the agency a wave of positive coverage. But when journalists and public-policy experts started digging, Covered California’s claims that nearly all residents would have access to readily affordable plans were found to be untrue.

“Many large subsets of the population face huge premium increases. The agency’s own experts forecast premiums would more than double for individually purchased plans for male nonsmokers 40 and under. The ‘sticker shocker’ suffered by so many residents this fall confirmed the deceit of Covered California’s spring claims.”

Spring deceit gives way to fall deceit

“Now the state agency has given new cause to worry about its honesty.

“In November, the agency reported it had signed up a nation-leading 30,000 people in October.

“Covered California had other good news as well. Because of costly premiums, experts feared that nearly all enrollees would only be low-income individuals eligible for heavy federal subsidies — a scenario that would be disastrously costly for taxpayers in the long term. But Covered California reported that 84 percent of its sign-ups were not subsidized — more than five out of six enrollees.

“Last week, however, officials said that the numbers were actually reversed, and that 84 percent of its October sign-ups were subsidized. They didn’t volunteer this fact; they only admitted it after a National Public Radio reporter asked about discrepancies in sign-up statistics between October and November. This makes the claims it was an innocent mistake less credible.”

200,000-plus signed up — but how many paid?

This slipperiness means journalists should be very careful about the latest happy talk from the state agency about a surge in enrollment.

“How many of the total 200,000-plus sign-ups are actually complete? How many have even paid for their policies? Is there a sustainable, healthy ratio between subsidized enrollees and unsubsidized ones?”

Good questions all.


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