Judicial Watch Sues Obama Department of Health and Human Services to Obtain Early “Obamacare” Enrollment Records
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on November 25, 2013, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain government records related to enrollment in the controversial Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:13-cv-01855)).
The lawsuit was filed after HHS failed to respond to an October 7 Judicial Watch FOIA request seeking the following information: Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the number of individuals that purchased health insurance through healthcare.gov between October 1, 2013, and October 4, 2013.
The Healthcare.gov website, officially launched on the Tuesday, October 1, immediately encountered substantial problems typical of those reported by the Chicago Tribune:
Consumers seeking more information on their new options under the Affordable Care Act were met with long delays, error messages and a largely non-working federal insurance exchange and call center Tuesday morning.
Pressed for an explanation in a conference call with reporters that afternoon, Marilyn Tavenner, head of the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, refused to disclose the number of people who had purchased insurance through the site saying, “We have just decided not to release that yet.”
As the Obama administration finally began releasing its version of the enrollee numbers in November, a controversy ensued over the accuracy of the HHS figures. In an article entitled, “Who Counts as an Obamacare Enrollee – the Administration Settles on a Definition,” the Washington Post revealed that the Obama administration had abandoned the conventional definition of a health plan enrollee, apparently in an attempt to inflate its figures.
“Health insurance plans only count subscribers as enrolled in a health plan once they’ve submitted a payment,” the Post reported. “That is when the carrier sends out a member card and begins paying doctor bills. When the Obama administration releases health law enrollment figures later this week, though, it will use a more expansive definition. It will count people who have purchased a plan as well as those who have a plan sitting in their online shopping cart but have not yet paid.”
Significantly, the HHS figures did not break down enrollment numbers by age. The administration had announced that its goal is to sign up 2.7 million people between the ages of 18 and 35, in an apparent attempt to help offset the risk of insurance pools consisting primarily of older, more sickly people, who traditionally drive up health care coverage costs. According to the website, Governing.com, “Officials said demographic information will be included in future releases but didn’t specify when.”
Without the complete HHS records, therefore, it remains difficult to confirm the accuracy of both the Obamacare visitor and enrollment figures. Complete raw figures are necessary to fully determine such pertinent information as the cost of premiums, the amount of subsidies given to those enrolled, demographics of those enrolled, whether an individual’s enrollment was based on the mandate, and whether the number of enrollees is even a helpful statistic due to website glitches. Hence, the Judicial Watch October FOIA request and subsequent November 25 lawsuit.
“To be blunt, we think the Obama administration is telling more lies about these Obamacare enrollment numbers. And sure enough, the administration refuses to turn over one document to us about these basic numbers about the healthcare.gov website,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The fact that we have to now go to federal court to get simple answers about how many people signed up for Obamacare shows that this administration has utter contempt for the people’s right to know.”