Washington –- In a recent pitch for the Affordable Care Act, President Obama singled out Connecticut’s exchange as proof the law is working as supporters hoped it would. But the president ‘s remarks were misleading.
Surrounded by young Americans –- one of whom nearly fainted during the half-hour speech -– Obama said many of those who have applied for health care coverage represent the demographics insurers are eager for: the young who are most apt to be healthy and would balance out older, sicker Americans in a risk pool.
“We know that nearly one-third of the people applying in Connecticut and Maryland, for example, are under 35 years old,” the president said in his address Monday in the Rose Garden. “They understand that they can get a good deal at low costs, have the security of health care, and this is not just for old folks like me — that everybody needs good quality health insurance. “
Obama was right in that nearly a third of the applicants in Connecticut’s exchange who registered from the first day the exchange was open, Oct. 1, through Oct 15 (29 percent) were younger than 35.
But more than 65 percent of those young applicants were signed up in Connecticut’s Medicaid program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, another government-run health care plan for low-income families included in the state’s HUSKY program. They did not “get a good deal at low cost” from private insurers in the exchange or help the exchange’s private insurers with their risk pools.
In fact, according to information provided by Access Health CT at a board meeting last week, the age group with the most applicants during the first two weeks of operation were aged 55-64, the least desirable demographic for insurers.
“We’ve had a lot of pent up demand by people who are of my age,” said Access Health CT COO Peter Van Loon.
Van Loon also said the exchange wanted “a nice bell curve” instead of the graphic it has now that shows a spike in older applicants.
The White House did not respond to a request seeking an explanation of the president’s remarks.
Elizabeth Charlow, spokeswoman for Maryland’s exchange, said she did not have information on how many Marylanders signed up for insurance. She said the White House may be referring to a report that shows how many young people have created accounts in the Maryland exchange. But that does not mean they have applied for insurance.
Obama’s Rose Garden speech had two purposes. One was to assure the nation the administration is doing everything it can to fix the severe computer problems plaguing the 36 states that rely on a federally run exchange portal, HealthCare.gov.
Obama also wanted to defend the system the health care law has established to help cover the uninsured.
“The product is good. The health insurance that’s being provided is good,” the president said “It’s high quality and it’s affordable. People can save money, significant money, by getting insurance that’s being provided through these marketplaces. And we know that the demand is there.”