Three years ago, on the eve of Obamacare’s implementation, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that President Obama’s centerpiece legislation would result in an average of 201 million people having private health insurance in any given month of 2016. Now that 2016 is here, the CBO says that just 177 million people, on average, will have private health insurance in any given month of this year—a shortfall of 24 million people.
Indeed, based on the CBO’s own numbers, it seems possible that Obamacare has actually reduced the number of people with private health insurance. In 2013, the CBO projected that, without Obamacare, 186 million people would be covered by private health insurance in 2016—160 million on employer-based plans, 26 million on individually purchased plans. The CBO now says that, with Obamacare, 177 million people will be covered by private health insurance in 2016—155 million on employer-based plans, 12 million on plans bought through Obamacare’s government-run exchanges, and 9 million on other individually purchased plans (plus a rounding error of 1 million).
In other words, it would appear that a net 9 million people have lost their private health plans, thanks to Obamacare—with a net 5 million people having lost employer-based plans and a net 4 million people having lost individually purchased plans.
None of this is to say that fewer people have “coverage” under Obamacare—it’s just not private coverage. In 2013, the CBO projected that 34 million people would be on Medicaid or CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) in 2016. The CBO now says that 68 million people will be on Medicaid or CHIP in 2016—double its earlier estimate. It turns out that Obamacare is pretty much a giant Medicaid expansion.
To be clear, the CBO—which has very generously labeled Obamacare’s direct subsidies to insurance companies as “tax credits,” even though sending money to insurers doesn’t lower anyone’s taxes—isn’t openly declaring that Obamacare has reduced the number of people with private health insurance or that it has doubled the number of people on Medicaid or CHIP. Rather, the CBO maintains that Obamacare has actually increased the number of people with private health insurance by 9 million and has increased the number of people on Medicaid or CHIP by (just) 13 million. But it would seem that the only reason the CBO can make these claims is that it has moved the goalposts.