April 18, 2014

Politico’s Nather: Obama Can ‘Spike the Football’ Because Obamacare ‘Is Beating Expectations’

David Nather at the Politico apparently wanted to make sure that those who don’t follow the news closely see a triumphant headline (“Obama Spikes the Football”) and a congratulatory opening paragraph at their computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Sure, the Politico reporter gradually threw in all kinds of qualifications after that, but his mission is largely accomplished: Cause those who don’t click through to believe that Obamacare is functioning as intended, and — especially in the headline — communicate the message that the debate about the statist health regime’s existence is really over. He can say that he did his job while at the same time keeping most people away from the more complicated reality. In that sense, Nather is right there with reporters at ABC and CBS who claim without verifiable evidence, as Rich Noyes at NewsBusters noted earlier this afternoon, that the program has achieved “a major milestone.” Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):

Obama spikes the football


Finally, President Barack Obama can say his health care law is beating the expectations.

Well, one of them, anyway. It’s safe to say that no one — not even him — predicted that the Obamacare sign-ups would soar as high as 8 million, the figure he announced in an appearance in the White House briefing room Thursday. That number, at least on its face, truly does go beyond the enrollment goals the administration set for itself — and makes the recovery from the website debacle even bigger.

That doesn’t mean the number tells everything the public needs to know about who’s really covered, of course. And not all of Thursday’s numbers beat the expectations — the share of young adults still isn’t ideal, according to some health care experts.

But the final enrollment numbers, along with other recent survey findings, are strong enough to give the Obama administration a cushion against some of the most common criticisms of the enrollment trends.

That “cushion” argument doesn’t wash, and Nather himself washed it out in paragraphs most people won’t read:

… Obama repeated the new sign-up figure twice so no one missed it: “Eight million people. Eight million people.”

… He felt confident enough to blast the Republicans for their “endless, fruitless repeal votes” and to declare — in a phrase that Republicans are vigorously disputing — that “the repeal debate is and should be over. The Affordable Care Act is working.”

The numbers still don’t say how many of the 8 million people have paid their premiums, because they’re not officially enrolled until they’ve paid. The best estimates from the insurance industry have suggested that anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent haven’t paid yet, though at least some of those have been trying and some will likely settle their bills.

The range of “enrollees” who haven’t paid is therefore between 1.2 million and 1.6 million. Either number takes you below the original 7 million goal now-former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius bought into as an achievable goal last year.

But we’re not done knocking down that enrollment number:

And the numbers still don’t tell us how many of the new customers were uninsured before, and how many were just swapping out one health insurance plan for another.

In fact, the Obama administration didn’t release a full enrollment report on Thursday, as was widely expected

“As expected”? Obviously, David Nather doesn’t understand, after over six months of exhibiting such behavior, that the administration will only dole out information if and when it’s ready, and the only if and when it supports their cause.

As to the number of newly insured, a post at Hot Air references a Rand Corporation study which “estimated (that) 36% of exchange enrollees (were) previously uninsured.” Given that the estimate was before the final enrollment surge, and bravely assuming that every last-minute buyer was a new enrollee, you still subtract at least two million more from Obama’s 8 million “enrolled.” Nather made no attempt to quantify this problem.

But the administration got what it wanted from Nather: a glowing headline and a celebration of an “achievement.” Thanks to his holding the doubts until later paragraphs, they’re really not concerned that too many people will see through the hype.

Parting thought I: Never forget that this is a program in which people legally have to enroll to avoid a tax penalty (it was a definite penalty then; thanks to administration waffling, it’s now a possible penalty). Perhaps the best question to ask is: What is the program’s compliance rate? Given that the Census Bureau has screamed for years that an admittedly inflated (but surely still quite large after corrections) 45-50 million Americans were uninsured, the result is surely a small minority of those who theoretically had to enroll. Original draft of Obamacare in 2009 called for putting non-enrollees in jail if they didn’t pay the individual mandate penalty.

Parting thought II: Obama is spiking the football well before he has gotten into the end zone. Reminder: It’s not a touchdown if you release the ball before the goal line.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.



  1. Actually, here is thee question the MSM has studiously avoided. IF 6.5 million “policies” were cancelled, and supposedly 8 million people signed up. Is that a net positive or negative? That would hinge on the definition of “policy”.

    A policy can cover one or MORE persons, e.g. a family of 4. IF 6.5 million policies were cancelled, how MANY people lost their insurance????????

    I have heard that HHS has padded the 8 million number with children, i.e. dependents. Dependents don’t pay for policies… In other words, it is very likely that Obama knowingly lied as to the coverage situation.

    Comment by dscott — April 20, 2014 @ 8:39 am

  2. I think it’s “people” in both cases, with the number of “policies” not ID’d. If you have evidence otherwise, I’d welcome it.

    Comment by Tom — April 20, 2014 @ 9:48 pm

  3. #2:

    The individual insurance market provides coverage to more than 19 million people who purchase health insurance on their own.


    Critical thinking says IF all or most of those 6.5 million individual plans covering 19 million people have been cancelled… Every policy covers 1 or more people given that children/dependents & spouses can be covered under 1 insurance policy contract.

    So what happened to the 19 million people on individual policies the INSURANCE COMPANY ASSOCIATION talks about? Who are we going to believe, Obama or the insurance companies as to how many were covered in the first place and then lost their policy? The ACA cancelled ALL individual plans that didn’t meet the ACA standard, did any of them? NO.

    Remember it was Obama who claimed after the fact that Insurance companies “should” give back policies to those who had them cancelled. DID THAT HAPPEN? Are there any MSM reports glowingly telling of Dear Leader’s words undoing any cancelled policy? NO, not even one. Hence 19 million people lost their insurance. This is why the word play of policy and individual is so important and why Obama now uses the term individuals and the 8 million figure now used is padded with children.

    Most of my searches of the web give policy # figures all over the place meaning the oblique references to 6.5 million policies cancelled is not rock solid. Nor can I find any insurance association figure as to the original number of individual policies that the 19 million people were covered under. I believe these figures have been virtually scrubbed to help sell the 8 million ACA covered. It wouldn’t be the first time that search engines have been tweeked to modify the rankings of searches to bury such info as Newsbusters reported on that many years ago.


    Nothing I have seen in the rollout to date has altered my earlier estimate that we’ll see at least 4 “losers” for every “winner” under Obamacare, especially given that nearly two thirds (4.5 million of the 7.1 million) of the newly insured have gained their coverage through Medicaid rather than private coverage. Few would argue it’s bad news to see 7.1 million Americans gain coverage, but it’s regrettable that such a vastly bigger number of the nation’s citizens had to experience the dislocations, anxiety or greater financial burdens that they did since that really wasn’t necessary had Obamacare been designed more sensibly.



    Which raises an interesting avoided important point about people choosing (or NOT CHOOSING) health insurance policies in the first place. IF the government mandating an individual be covered by a health insurance policy does not achieve 100% compliance or nearly so then clearly the 30 to 42 million or so uninsured spoken of by the CBO belies the intent of the Law in the first place. IF the Law was supposed to end the supposed scourge of being uninsured then why are people choosing not to be insured, by the tens of millions? Meaning before this Law went into effect, the vast majority of those without health insurance didn’t want it in the first place.

    The ACA was pasted as a humanitarian measure to help those in need and we are berated for being cruel for wanting to repeal it. The fact that tens of millions of people REFUSE to sign up indicates there was no need for the Law in the first place. So we are really being berated for supporting the choice of people to run their own lives on their terms. The desire to repeal should be worn as a moniker.

    Comment by dscott — April 22, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  4. Thanks so much for that info.

    Comment by Tom — April 22, 2014 @ 11:18 am

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