Republicans Say Only 5 People Are Enrolled In The DC Health Care Market, But The Truth Is More Complicated

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A pair of senior Republican senators claims that only five people are enrolled in Washington, D.C.’s health care marketplace, but the numbers tell a different story.

On Friday, Senate Finance Committee members Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Orrin Hatch of Utah released data from four health care companies participating in the DC HealthLink marketplace and found that only five customers had finalized their plans and paid their premiums. The senators found that two customers were fully enrolled in CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, while three more were enrolled in Kaiser Permanente. No customers were enrolled in UnitedHealthcare or Aetna.  

Grassley and Hatch have used the data to criticize the Obama administration’s rollout of Obamacare, as well as the seeming lack of interest in the program itself.

“With numbers like these, it's no wonder the Obama administration hasn't wanted to release how many people have signed up for Obamacare,” Hatch wrote in a press release. “With data from D.C.'s four participating health plans in, there's been a whopping five people enrolled in the city’s exchange. That’s right, five. Whether it's significant problems with the website, people being forced off the coverage they had or skyrocketing costs, these numbers are even more proof of what a disaster Obamacare is and why it should be delayed.”

However, despite Grassley and Hatch’s claims, DC HealthLink officials insist that there’s more to the story than the senators are presenting. Grassley and Hatch are counting only the DC HealthLink members who have paid their first month of premiums, while ignoring the many more that have selected healthcare plans but have not yet paid for them.

“That is not an accurate depiction of the strong level of interest in the District of Columbia in obtaining quality, affordable health insurance,” DC HealthLink spokesman Richard Sorian told Politico in an email.

While only five people have paid their premiums for DC HealthLink plans, far more have actually signed up for the program. As of Oct. 21, Sorian said, 321 people who signed up for DC HealthLink had selected a plan. Of those, 164 people finalized their decision and requested an invoice for their premium payment. As the Washington Post notes, healthcare companies are not notified when individuals select their health plans and request invoices, only when they have officially pay their first premium.

Sorian says that because health care customers have until Dec. 15 to pay for their premiums, there is no reason for every DC HealthLink user to have paid for their plans at this point.

"Consumers have until Dec. 15 to finalize their selection by paying their first month’s premium in order to have coverage on Jan. 1, 2014," Sorian said. "We are very pleased with the strong, enthusiastic response from the residents and small business owners in the District.”

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