By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Lost in the victory lap over Obamacare are any real details about who’s included in those 7.1 million people the president is bragging about.
HOW MANY ON THE BUS? Illinois’ Obamacare headcount is unknown?
That’s a problem for states such as Illinois.
If the basic assumptions of Obamacare are wrong, Ben Domenech, a writer and Obamacare expert with the Heartland Institute, said states will be heading down a path they can neither afford nor sustain.
The Heartland Institute promotes free markets and individual liberty.
“The whole point of this law was supposed to get people who were uninsured insured, and it was supposed to lower costs for those who had insurance,” Domenech said. “We already know it’s not doing the latter. But we think there is a chance to do the former.”
To do that, Illinois must first answer five questions:
How many people have signed up for Obamacare?
It will take a few days — or weeks — to tally the final Obamcare numbers, according to Mike Claffey, Illinois’ health care spokesman.
“Since the February numbers were released around March 11, we expect March numbers around the same time,” Claffey explained.
At the end of February, he said, 113,000 people had picked a plan through the state’s marketplace, Get Covered Illinois. Some probably went to the federal website, Healthcare.gov.
How many of those people have paid for Obamacare?
If 113,000 people chose a plan, as many as 22,600 haven’t paid for it.
“There’s a whole host of folks who haven’t paid their premiums, possibly as much as 20 percent or more,” Domenech said. “Which means the (sign up) figure is going to be a heck of a lot lower.”
People may stop paying premiums later in the year. Obamacare essentially gives people three months for free, and critics expect thousands to take advantage of that loophole.
How many young people have bought insurance under Obamacare?
Illinois has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for funny lists on Buzzfeed and the Onion was to get young people into Obamacare.
Millennials are key to the program; they essentially are needed to pay premiums so Obamcare can pay for coverage for the older and sicker people who have jumped into the program.
“The thing that I think is interesting is that 3 million people who got coverage under the law are the young adults who signed up under their parents’ insurance plans,” Domenech said. The so-called slacker tax is one of the only true head counts for young people under Obamacare.
How many truly uninsured people are getting coverage?
Obamacare was sold as the way to give cancer survivors and sick children access to care. But that’s not the reality.
“Obamacare is not designed to make changes to a good system and make it a better system,” state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, told Illinois Watchdog. “Obamacare is designed to radically change the system.”
Righter and other state lawmakers say many of the 113,000 people who have gone through the state’s marketplace are simply moving from their old insurance plan to a new Obamacare plan. Thousands more are enrolling in Medicaid.
In Illinois, Obamacare means expanding Medicaid.
Claffey, of the state’s health care office, said 220,000 newly eligible adults have been added to the state’s Medicaid rolls. Thousands of people who have always been eligible for Medicaid have jumped on he system via Obamacare.
In February, Illinois Healthcare and Family Services director Julie Hamos said a total of 315,000 people have enrolled in Medicaid. She expects as many as 430,000 to be on the rolls by year’s end.
“Sometimes we hear low estimates, sometimes we here high estimates,” Righter said. “I’m not sure whether or not Governor Quinn and the Democrats here in Springfield have any idea how many hundreds of thousands of people will wind up going on the Medicaid program. And they sure don’t have any idea how they are going to pay for it.”
Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.