Measuring the Success (or Failure) of Obamacare
Measuring the Success (or Failure) of Obamacare

There’s no denying it. Obamacare is one of the most controversial public policies in decades, so it’s no surprise that those on both sides of the issue are clamoring for real-time information about the law’s success or failure. Unfortunately, timely, accurate information is hard to come by.

The Administration recently reported that nearly 3.3 million people had enrolled in marketplace plans as of February 1st.  The Administration has also reported that another 6.3 million people signed up for Medicaid for the first time as of December 31st. Serious questions, however, remain about the meaningfulness and even the accuracy of this information.

For example, the information released to date does not provide insights into how these numbers impact the ranks of the uninsured. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 13 million uninsured Americans will get coverage this year as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Back in January, however, McKinsey released survey results that indicated as few as 11 percent of new enrollees are uninsured.  Earlier this month, Gallup released its own survey of 19,000 Americans which indicated that the uninsurance rate dropped from 17.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 16.0 percent so far in the first quarter of 2014.  Even still, the definitive source for these data is the Census Bureau, which only releases annual estimates and usually with a nine-month data lag.

Additionally, some have called into question the accuracy of the Administration’s 6.3 million Medicaid figure. For example, Avalere concluded that the number of individuals newly enrolled in Medicaid because of the ACA expansions is likely between 1.1 and 1.8 million.

One thing is certain: There is a lot to be uncertain about. For this one, patience may be the only thing standing between us and the true story about the success or failure of Obamacare.