WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A new report finds that only 67 percent of Americans enrolled in Obamacare have paid their first monthly premium, a number much lower than the administration gave in March.
A report put out by the House Energy and Commerce Committee – and obtained by CBS News – reached out to every insurance provider on the federally-funded health care marketplace to get the data.
“Tired of receiving incomplete pictures of enrollment in the health care law, we went right to the source and found that the administration’s recent declarations of success may be unfounded,” Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., told CBS News in a statement. “We need a complete picture of how this law is working. We will continue to strive for transparency and hold the administration accountable for this law’s shortcomings and broken promises.”
In March, outgoing Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told KWTV that up to 90 percent of consumers paid their first monthly premium.
“What we know from insurance companies … tell us that, for their initial customers, it’s somewhere between 80, 85, some say as high as 90 percent, have paid so far,” Sebelius told KWTV. “Lots of companies have different timetables for when their new customers have to send their first payment.
The report showed there were wild swings in the data between states. In Arkansas, up to 88 percent of Obamacare enrollees already paid their premiums, compared to only 48 percent in Oklahoma.
“You have to recognize it’s a new payment for many people, and it’s not uncommon for people to miss that first payment or be confused about when to pay it,” Marc Boutin, executive vice president of the nonprofit National Health Council, told CBS News, adding that he thinks “the numbers are just going to go up.”
The Health and Human Services Department says only half of insurers data was collected by the House committee for the report. Also, the report only represented the premiums that were paid by April 15.
President Barack Obama announced last month that 8 million people have signed up for coverage through new insurance exchanges, but barriers persist blocking tens of millions of people around the nation from accessinghealth care. Questions of eligibility, immigrant coverage and the response from employers and state legislatures mean considerable work lies ahead for health care advocates and officials — but cost remains a particularly high hurdle for low income people who are most likely to be uninsured.
Before the launch of the Affordable Care Act, about 48 million people, or 15 percent of the population, went without health insurance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of people recently enrolled includes those who switched from previous plans, and it’s not clear how many previously uninsured people are now covered.
The share of adults without insurance shrank from 17.1 percent at the end of last year to 15.6 percent for the first three months of 2014, according to a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released this month. The decline would translate to about 3.5 million people gaining coverage, according to the study. Another study by RAND Corp. shows a larger number of adults gaining coverage.
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