For the Providence Journal, Jennifer Bogdan frames an initial increase in people signing up for health care plans through the state’s ObamaCare health benefits exchange, HealthSource RI, in terms of President Trump’s moves against the federal law, but readers who step back from the politics will notice something about the numbers, namely that they’re incredibly small:
About 640 people have signed up for coverage under the state’s health insurance exchange during the first seven days of enrollment. That dwarfs the 126 people who signed up during the same time frame last year, according to data provided by HealthSource RI.
Numbers that small, could have a multitude of causes. This entire “spike,” for example, could have been caused by Rhode Islanders’ losing their jobs from Benny’s closures.
Bogdan writes that the state’s projection of 30,000 people signing up could be exceeded if the trend of the first week continues, but that’s a joke compared with where the system was supposed to be. Remember that, when Governor Lincoln Chafee made the decision to create HealthSource through executive order, over 200,000 people were projected to sign up in the early years. Instead, the numbers have barely grown at all, hovering in the high 20,000 range.
Meanwhile, Medicaid — the government’s health care welfare program — has exploded. As Patrick Anderson reports:
… Medicaid enrollment swelled to 303,125 people this fall, 5,650 more cases than projected in May and 21,326 cases more than in 2016.
Anderson’s article treats the number as some sort of unexpected excess resulting from the Unified Health Infrastructure Program’s (UHIP’s) failure to function properly, but UHIP was designed to maximize enrollment. HealthSource — like health benefits exchanges across the country — was proof of that. People who attempted to sign up for paid health care were rerouted to Medicaid because they were eligible.
When UHIP is working properly, people attempting to sign up for other welfare programs, from food stamps to child care, will also be told that they are eligible for Medicaid. The recent history of Medicaid (including the Child Health Insurance Program [CHIP], which is Medicaid for children) shows the likely effect.
If UHIP becomes fully functional and Rhode Island’s economy doesn’t improve (really improve, not the fake unemployment-rate kind of improvement), HealthSource will continue to be what it has been: a stepping stone to Medicaid. In other words, government health care in Rhode Island provides more evidence that we’re headed in the wrong direction.