The Spectacle Blog

This Administration is Either Lying or Incompetent

By on 3.19.14 | 11:15AM

Obamacare has had its share of troubles over the past year. Only 4.2 million people have signed up so far, well short of the desired 7 million enrollees the administration was hoping for. Of course, now the administration has moved the goalposts to 6 million enrollees. I suppose they don’t live by the maxim under-promise and over-deliver. However, as bad as Obamacare is, more infuriating has been the administration’s public presentation of how Obamacare is doing.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney investigated how many of these 4.2 million enrollees have actually paid their premiums, and the best guess is that 15-20 percent have not paid a dime. That’s problematic for the future of Obamacare. But even worse, insurance industry officials report that the administration has all of the relevant data. So why are we guessing? And why does Kathleen Sebelius obfuscate when asked about who has paid?

Federal officials say they count sign-ups — people who select plans on HealthCare.gov or in state exchanges — because they can’t yet rely on the insurers’ figures. They say the industry reports are not comprehensive, and they change month to month.

“I can’t tell you because I don’t know that,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday when Republicans asked about the number of paying Obamacare customers during hearings on Capitol Hill. “We don’t collect it.” She reiterated her contention Thursday, telling lawmakers that she’d provide the information as soon as it’s available.

But that’s not true according to industry sources:

“They have a lot more information than they’re letting on,” one industry source said of the Obama administration. “They have real hard data about the percent that have paid … If they have not processed those yet and compiled the data, that is a choice they are making. But they have that data now.”

So there are two explanations. Either this administration is incompetent and can’t figure out how to read spreadsheets. Or worse, they are actively lying by omission to the American public in hopes of making their health care law look better.

While the consequences of this disinformation are widely different in effect, it’s difficult to see a difference between this scenario and George W. Bush’s misfire on whether Iraq had WMDs. Either Bush didn’t have accurate intelligence (my belief on the issue) or he misled the public. We now face a similar scenario regarding who has paid for Obamacare premiums, except this time it feels a lot more like a lie than simple ignorance.

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