Leading health policy group: People using wrong metrics to judge Obamacare

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The head of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation says news organizations and pundits should quit focusing on whether Obamacare signs up 6 million people and a ton of young people.

“The problem is that just about everything about this narrative is wrong. It’s the equivalent of judging the local weather from national averages,” foundation CEO Drew Altman said in a blog post.

Instead, people should focus on whether the coverage is a good deal and affordable for many people, or if premiums will spike in specific parts of the country because the risk pools there turn out to be less healthy than expected.

Mr. Altman said the 6 million figure was produced by the Congressional Budget Office to address national fiscal questions, not the overall success of the Affordable Care Act in its first year.

The proportion of young enrollees is also a misnomer to an extent, he said. So far, young adults make up about a quarter of enrollees instead of 40 percent — the proportion of potential enrollees from that group.

Even so, Kaiser predicts the current rate of young enrollment will cause premiums to rise by 2 to 3 percent.

“Though even that isn’t quite right, since many insurers expected this and already built it into their premiums,” Mr. Altman wrote. “Nevertheless, news organizations continue to hammer enrollment by young adults as if it were the sole make-it or break-it factor to the health of the risk pools and, in some news reports, the law. There are no data yet on the overall health of enrollees because the law no longer allows insurers to collect that data in order to exclude people with pre-existing conditions from coverage.”

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