Obamacare Causes 5 Million To Lose Insurance? Not Quite, Study Says

Obamacare will not cause nearly 5 million American to lose their heath insurance coverage as Republicans have claimed, says a new study issued by Democrats on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. While some people will indeed lose coverage, the real number is closer to 10,000.

The claim that approximately 4.7 million Americans lost health coverage as a result of new requirements in the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, better known as Obamacare, has become a key Republican talking point since the glitchy Healthcare.gov web site was largely repaired at the end of November.

The new report appears unlikely to cause Republicans to back off from their claim, however. A Thursday article on the conservative Daily Caller news web site slammed the Obamacare study, which was led by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California, for having “tortured the numbers” to arrive at its conclusions.

But as The Washington Post has pointed out, Republican rhetoric has blurred the distinction between people who will lose health care “plans” and those who will lose “coverage.”

According to the report, of the 4.7 million who either have or will receive notices canceling their current health care plans under Obamacare, about half of those have the option to simply renew those plans in 2014, retaining the same coverage they had before.

The report also says that the Republican claim “assumes that no individuals who had private insurance will sign up for insurance through the new health exchanges or Medicaid.” In fact, the report says, roughly half of individuals now covered by an individual plan are eligible for tax credits to help them buy new insurance at reduced cost while still more will qualify for Medicaid under newly loosened financial requirements for that government program established by Obamacare

These individuals will end up “with better coverage at lower cost” than on their previous plans, the reports says. The vast majority of individuals with canceled plans had what is often called “junk insurance,” plans that though they carried low premiums, provided little if any coverage.

Obamacare “was designed specifically to prevent insurance companies from peddling lousy insurance plans and to force these firms to replace these subpar products with affordable plans providing better and effective coverage,” explained Mother Jones Magazine reporter Stephanie Mencimer in November.

“These were plans that barely qualified as insurance because they had very low caps on coverage or weren’t even really insurance at all. Many were merely medical discount programs that didn’t protect against health-related financial calamity,” she wrote.

That leaves 950,000 people with canceled plans. But of those, the report estimates, only 10,000 will lack access to affordable, quality health coverage due to Obamacare changes.