A new report shows that the Obama administration mixed dental plan enrollments with other health plan enrollments without notifying the public.
The numbers the administration touted included several hundred thousand of these dental plans in their total number of enrollees, Bloomberg reports.
The Obama administration included as many as 400,000 dental plans in a number it reported for enrollments under the Affordable Care Act, an unpublicized detail that helped surpass a goal for 7 million sign-ups.
This way of reporting the numbers had not been done before the September announcement.
Federal officials said in September they had 7.3 million people enrolled in coverage through new government-run insurance exchanges. They didn’t distinguish between medical and dental plans, breaking from previous practice without notice.
Blending dental and medical plans let the administration assert that enrollment remained greater than 7 million, the original projection of the Congressional Budget Office. The move also partly obscured the attrition of more than 1 million in the number of people enrolled in medical insurance.
Obamacare critics and supporters alike were outraged by the deception.
"After touting 8 million initial sign-ups for medical plans, four months later they engaged in a concerted effort to obscure a heavy drop-out rate of perhaps a million or more enrollees by quietly adding in dental plan sign-ups to exchange numbers," Republican Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the Oversight committee, said in an e-mail from a spokeswoman.
Charles Gaba, a Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based blogger who backs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and has accurately forecast enrollment, was among those who found Tavenner’s announcement encouraging. He had predicted enrollment would suffer attrition of about 3 percent per month; Tavenner’s figure suggested the rate was lower, only about 2 percent.
"This is FANTASTIC news," he wrote at the time.
He said yesterday that he is "appalled" to find out dental plans were included in the figure.
"I really don’t see what the point would be of being misleading about that number," he said in a phone interview. "Even if it had been 6.9 million, I don’t see that as being a terrible thing."