This is the way democracy ends, not with a bang, but a footnote. In April, the Congressional Budget Office—the nonpartisan agency typically relied on to make fiscal assessments of government programs—-reported that it was no longer possible to measure the cost of Obamacare. This fact wasn’t reported until last week because it was buried at the bottom of the page in one of the CBO’s interminable analyses of Obamacare’s insurance coverage provisions, and no one noticed. According to the CBO, “Provisions of the Affordable Care Act significantly modified existing federal programs and made changes to the Internal Revenue Code. . . . Isolating the incremental effects of those provisions on previously existing programs and revenues four years after enactment of the Affordable Care Act is not possible.”
This no doubt suits the administration just fine. On May 21, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would no longer report monthly enrollment numbers for Obamacare exchanges. If not enough people, or people of the right demographic mix, sign up for Obamacare, the exchanges will bleed money and force a bailout of insurance companies on the backs of taxpayers. But good luck figuring out if that’s happening. “HHS has lost their mind and will deserve every bit of criticism that they receive over [this decision],” said Charles Gaba of the nonpartisan ACASignUps.net.
In April, the census also announced it was revamping the household insurance questions on its widely cited Current Population Survey. The Current Population Survey data are essential to wonks of all stripes, and the change in methodology makes it impossible to compare insurance data before and after the launch of the exchanges. Recall that one of Obama’s first major decisions in 2009 was to bring the census director inside the White House. The administration brushed aside a torrent of criticism that this was a move to politicize census data.
Needless to say, if Obamacare really were reducing the deficit as promised when the bill was passed, the administration would be working with the CBO to find ways to publicize this success. (For what it’s worth, a GAO report last year concluded the law would add $6.2 trillion to the deficit.) Instead, a law that was unwieldly to begin with has been continually and lawlessly amended to cover up its failures, and now it’s impossible for any impartial analysis to make heads or tails of it.
Further, if Americans were eager to ditch their current policy—setting aside the millions victimized by “If you like it, you can keep it”—and sign up for Obamacare’s overpriced exchange coverage, you bet we’d be getting enrollment data. And if the White House could then claim they were reducing the ranks of America’s uninsured, they’d be blasting this fact from the rooftops. Instead, they’re putting cement shoes on the census data and tossing it in the Potomac.
Even typically obsequious members of the press corps have begun to refer to Obama’s promise to be the “most transparent administration ever” with derision. However, the problem here is not that Obama is trying and failing to live up to his own standards. By several objective measures that extend well beyond Obamacare, his administration is, in fact, among the least transparent administrations ever.