The White House celebrated enrollment results at the new public health insurance exchange system recently with a press conference and a “fact sheet.”
Not some dry, standardized, respectable-looking report that may or may not have given complete, honest numbers but one that at least humored me by pretending to give me complete, honest numbers. A fact sheet with the kinds of bullet points a bright elementary school pupil might put in a one-page PowerPoint presentation if asked to do so for a class assignment.
The White House said “8 million people have signed up for private insurance in the health insurance marketplace,” or exchange system, but didn’t even really clarify whether it meant those people have just chosen coverage or actually paid for it, or whether those people got covered by, say, yesterday, or some other date.
So, not only was the White House spinning the data, the spin was the data. There was nothing inside the spin but a bunch of question marks.
Honestly: I want the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange program and the qualified health plan (QHP) system to work because I can easily imagine needing it someday, and the basic concept doesn’t seem to even be particularly partisan.
Private health insurers might have created a risk-allocation system to help themselves sell coverage on a guaranteed-issue, community-rated basis years ago, if they had the legal authority to do such a thing.
So, seriously: On the one hand, I have nothing at all against the exchange concept or the QHP concept.
On the other hand: Then you start thinking about the specifics.
Many health insurance exchanges have died over the years because managers had problems with the specifics, and antiselection led to death spirals.
My wild guess is that the managers with better results will be the ones who know what they’re doing.
To me, data are one sign that managers of something know what they’re doing.