Fox News invited Paul Wolfowitz, a former Bush administration official and current development scholar for conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, to push the repeatedly debunked claim that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may actually increase the number of uninsured.
On March 23, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Wolfowitz, an Iraq War architect who noted his past employment with the World Bank had little to do with health care, to weigh in on the ACA enrollment numbers.
Wolfowitz baselessly claimed that the health reform law may increase the number of uninsured Americans:
WALLACE: We haven't heard from you on Obamacare as former head of the World Bank. What do you think of how it has gone so far?
WOLFOWITZ: I wouldn't say the World Bank has much to do with it. But you know, it seems to me, I hear numbers, I think it's correct, that five million people had their plans canceled, the ones they were promised they could keep. Presumably, some of that five million of new enrollees are just people who got kicked out and are back in. This was supposed to reduce the number of uninsured. It may actually have increased the number. I think Nancy Pelosi famously said we have to pass the bill so you'll know what is in it. Well, they've passed the bill, there's are so many changes by administrative fiat, I don't think the authors any longer know what's is in it. It's -- you cannot reform 17 percent of the economy with 900 pages of legislation that nobody's bothered to read.
But the suggestion that the ACA may have increased the number of uninsured Americans has been debunked by multiple fact checks. On March 17, Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler weighed in on a similar claim from Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) that there has been "a net loss of people with health insurance," writing that Boehner's claim "flies in the face of the facts" and issuing it "four pinocchios" -- the rating it issues for "whoppers." Kessler also cited two data points that demonstrate how the ACA has increased the number of people with insurance:
So what does this add up to? Taking the lowest-range estimates, we still end up with nearly 9 million people added to the insurance rolls, more than enough to swamp Boehner's 6 million figure, which as we noted is a pretty useless number to begin with.
- 3.4 million -- HealthCare.gov sign-ups, assuming 80 percent paid, though February
- 2.4 million -- lowest estimate for new Medicaid enrollment through January
- 2.2 million -- young adults added to parents' plans (2010 average to first two quarters of 2013)
- 500,000 -- off-exchange enrollments
Charles Gaba, a blogger who has tracked the state-by-state numbers at ACAsignups.net, including known off-exchange enrollments, meanwhile calculates the actual current figure though mid-March at nearly 14 million. Even if you take a conservative estimate for paid plans and reduce the number of young Americans added to plans, you end up with about 13 million. That makes Boehner's "net loss" claim seem especially absurd.
Politifact similarly rated the "net loss" claim "false." As its March 18 article noted, Boehner's suggestion omitted several "important factors," including Medicaid enrollments, young adults who have been able to remain on their parents' plans, and notably, what happened to people who received cancellation notices because their insurance plans were not ACA compliant:
Some of those policies, about half, were restored when Obama administratively allowed canceled plans to continue for another year and later through 2016.
Many others were moved to new plans, either through their insurance company or by purchasing a new policy on the marketplaces set up for Obamacare. The administration estimated that of the people with canceled plans, just 500,000 were left without coverage, and catastrophic coverage was extended to those individuals.
That's not to say this wasn't a difficult ordeal for people who lost their plans, especially if they thought the law would allow them to keep their coverage. But most of them were able to find new plans, meaning Boehner's 6 million uninsured people basically vanishes.