Confronted by discrepancies in the number of jobs created by the stimulus bill, officials in the Obama Administration eventually were forced to concede that their numbers could not stand up to scrutiny. Unfortunately, the lesson appears to have been lost on the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in its exuberance to fire up public support for health care legislation. Once again, the Administration appears to be fudging the numbers.
The Administration’s website, HealthReform.Gov, which is maintained by DHHS, includes a feature, Health Insurance Reform and Your State: The Case for Change. Viewers are invited to “[s]elect your state to see the report on the current status of health care and the benefit of reform.”
In selecting Ohio as an example, the reader is informed that “1.4 million residents who do not currently have insurance and 533,000 residents who have nongroup insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange.” This is not correct. The problem is the 1.4 million figure for Ohio comes from an Urban Institute report, The Cost of Failure to Enact Health Reform: Implications for States which was produced before the current legislation was introduced in Congress.
So that 1.4 million reflects the total number of uninsured in Ohio, not how many will be helped by the legislation as DHHS alleges. Under the Senate bill, S. 3590, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that under current law, there will be a total of 51 million nonelderly people who will be uninsured in 2014. The legislation would reduce the number of uninsured by 16 million in 2014 or by 31 percent. By 2019, the number of uninsured projected under current law will be reduced by 57 under the Senate bill.
Assuming Ohio looks like the national average, there will still be about 1 million people without health insurance in 2014. How many members of the Ohio delegation are using the DHHS figures to explain their support for the current legislation? Congress should be checking the math. More importantly, how will DHHS explain to 1 million Ohioans that the implied promises of 2009 were merely an illustration, not the Department’s estimates based on the actual legislation?