The number bounced around for years — 46 million.
President Obama said it in August 2009: “I don’t have to explain to you that nearly 46 million Americans don’t have health insurance coverage today. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, 46 million of our fellow citizens have no coverage.”
He said it dozens more times, including in June 2013: “We are not a nation that accepts nearly 46 million uninsured men, women and children.”
The Obama administration pumped the number with official reports. The White House Council of Economic Advisers said, “Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance.” The Census Bureau got in on the act, too, saying some 48 million Americans lacked health insurance.
It was official: Nearly 15 percent of America’s 313 million citizens had no coverage and were, as Mr. Obama loved to say over and over to hype the fear, “one illness away from financial ruin.”
So, he created Obamacare. The crux of the biscuit: The United States would completely change its entire health care system to make sure those 46 million got insured. Well, at least that’s what every rational American thought. If there are 46 million uninsured, and the president and Congress are overhauling the system, it must be to solve the whole problem — not just part of it.
But last week came word that with just 15 days left for people to enroll for federal coverage, just 4.2 million had. The math is simple: That’s just 9 percent of the supposedly 46 million uninsured.
“It will be a larger number than that by the end of March,” Mr. Obama promised in an interview with WebMD. “At this point, enough people are signing up that the Affordable Care Act is going to work.”
Still, the obvious question is: We changed the $2.7 trillion health care system to sign up 4.2 million people?
While the president has opted to press class warfare and income inequality in the weeks leading up to the Obamacare sign-up cutoff date of March 31, he has made an effort to enroll the people most needed to make the federal program work: the young.
He did an ask-me-anything on Reddit.com, popped up on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis, introduced a segment on the popular show “Cosmos,” even invited ‘N Sync singer Lance Bass to the White House to “discuss” health care.
But the young have not flocked to the Web page to sign up for insurance that, even with a hefty federal subsidy, will still cost them more than not paying anything. And anyone with teenagers or 20-somethings knows that they don’t do anything unless they’re absolutely forced to (Zach didn’t actually tell them to go sign up, just the pushy president, again).
What’s more, it turns out many of those signing up to the program already had insurance. “Few uninsured Americans are gaining coverage under Obamacare,” CNN reported in early March. Just 27 percent of the enrollees were previously uninsured, according to a survey conducted in February by McKinsey & Co.
To top it all off, reports have emerged that many of the enrollees are more elderly and more unhealthy, which is likely to tax the system heavily just as it gets started.