Obamacare's six-month enrollment period ended Monday, with the administration claiming Tuesday that more than 7 million people signed up. There are lots of reasons why its claims of success should be taken with a large grain of salt.
Remember, this is the administration that promised that if Americans like their health insurance plan, they could keep it. No one can take it away from them. That turned out to be one of President Obama's biggest whoppers when 5 million Americans had their policies canceled because the plans didn't meet Obamacare's rigid mandates.
Additional claims being made about the health care law remind me of a long-ago TV ad in which a shady salesman who, when his customers questioned his promises, would reply, "Well, not exactly."
There are lots of "not exactly" caveats among this administration's dubious claims about where Obamacare stands right now after its first six-month sign-up period.
Let's start with the White House's questionable spiel that it has reached its goal of 6 million Americans who signed up for plans in the health insurance exchanges since Oct. 1.
The Washington Post's Jason Millman seriously doubted this claim Tuesday in a revealing question-and-answer article called, "Six million exchange sign-ups — so, the administration hit its goal?"
His answer: "Not exactly. For starters the administration says it never set a specific goal, though it did previously adopt the Congressional Budget Office's earlier estimate that 7 million would enroll in exchanges by the deadline. CBO later revised the estimate down to 6 million after technical problems hindered the first two months of enrollment." No one really knows, though.
That's why there was growing skepticism about the 6 million sign-up claim on Capitol Hill. "They are cooking the books on this," Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said Sunday.
The truth is, despite the administration's claims, there's no official data about who has signed up thus far.
We don't know how many of these are people had insurance before and are switching to subsidized policies under Obamacare. Neither do we know how many signed up and paid for their policies.
Mr. Obama is suggesting that with the latest sign-ups, the number of uninsured is dropping accordingly. "I'd say that we're on our way to making sure that no American ever has to go without health insurance."
Well, not exactly. There's a general estimate of how many have enrolled in Medicaid for lower-income people, and of young adults, who are now on their parents' health insurance plans.
However, "we don't know how many of those signing up were previously uninsured," Mr. Millman writes.
Actually, it is a wild exaggeration for Mr. Obama to even say that we are on our way to a time when every American will have health care insurance. Close to 30 million Americans still won't have insurance coverage under Obamacare, according to a new analysis in the medical journal Health Affairs. "Even if the law were fully implemented, there would have been 26 million uninsured people," the study's co-author Steffie Woolhandler told The Washington Post in an interview Thursday. "This is the system as originally designed."
The CBO, the auditing arm of Congress, estimated more than a year ago that more than 26 million Americans — between the ages of 18 and 44 — would not have health insurance under the expansion of medical care coverage.
The administration still insists that Obamacare will not drive up insurance rates, but Americans who already have seen their health care plan bills rise significantly know this is another false promise. Premiums have been rising ever since Obamacare's enactment for family plans as well as supplemental plans for older Americans on Medicare.
Obamacare mandates that health insurance plans must offer a wide variety benefits that were not required before. All of them add higher costs to insurance, and we're seeing that right now.
"Some industry officials are predicting double-digit increases in premiums in some states, but information about the new rates won't emerge until later in the spring, the summer or later," the newspaper said.
Don't be surprised if the administration, which has been playing political games with repeated delays of the law's mandates, will postpone information about higher rates until after the critical midterm elections in November.
Monday was the deadline when uninsured people were required to get health care coverage or else face a fine of $95, which will gradually rise through 2016 to $695, or 2.5 percent of income.
Imposing the fines would be the political kiss of death for Democrats in this year's midterm elections, and for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, right? Well, not exactly.
"The penalty won't be assessed until you file your taxes next year, but the Obama administration isn't expected to enforce the mandate all that strongly," the newspaper reports.
Nevertheless, Obamacare poses a dense thicket of political hurdles in the fall for vulnerable Democrats who voted for it, especially in the Senate. Republicans will be attacking them with a vengeance.
Here's a taste of what Democrats can expect to hear from their GOP opponents in this year's elections: "Obamacare is a vehicle that drives home a bigger problem Democrats have with voters: Either they didn't understand the law they championed, which makes them inept, or they blatantly lied about what this law would do, which makes them dishonest," says Brad Dayspring, the chief spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Meanwhile, Obamacare's weak financial structure is still a shaky house of cards that will need a huge number of young, healthier customers to pay for the vast majority of older, sicker people who will be signing up in the future.
So far, those younger adults have not been signing up in anywhere near the numbers that will be needed to bankroll Obamacare's future costs.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.