Joe Biden exaggerates Affordable Care Act enrollment stats

President Joe Biden recently trumpeted that during the last open enrollment period, a record 14.5 million Americans signed up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance law that was passed when Biden was vice president.

In a Jan. 27 statement, Biden cited changes that were included in the U.S. bailout, coronavirus and economic relief legislation that Biden signed several weeks after his inauguration in 2021. The legislation increased the amount subsidies for private insurance plans offered in the ACA marketplace, while expanding eligibility to receive these subsidies.

The U.S. bailout, Biden said, “has done more to cut costs and expand access to health care than any action since the Affordable Care Act was passed. It’s made quality coverage more affordable than ever, with families saving an average of $2,400 on their annual premiums, and four out of five consumers finding quality coverage for less than $10 a month.As a result, millions of our fellow Americans have now gained security and the peace of mind that comes with reliable health insurance.

When we looked at the numbers, we found that Biden had incorrectly framed that “four out of five” number. He confused two data that was released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency.

One statistic reported by the agency is that “four out of five consumers can find a plan for $10 or less per month” due to changes in the US bailout.

However, this refers to the percentage of potential consumers who would find themselves eligible for a plan costing $10 per month or less if they searched. It is not about the percentage of people who “find” such coverage, let alone the decision to purchase such coverage.

The percentage of people who actually sign up for coverage and pay that little bit per month is much lower. About a third of consumers who purchased ACA coverage after the U.S. bailout was implemented chose a plan that cost $10 a month or less, the agency reported. In total, according to the agency, more than one million consumers have chosen a Marketplace plan with premiums of $10 or less per month.

The White House backed Biden’s framing, arguing that the notion of “finding” coverage covers the availability of insurance, not just its purchase.

However, a plain reading of Biden’s wording suggests that while four out of five consumers may qualify for coverage that costs so little, those consumers aren’t necessarily getting the message.

Our decision

Biden said that because of the American Rescue Plan’s changes to the Affordable Care Act, “four out of five consumers (find) quality coverage for less than $10 a month.”

Biden confused two statistics. Four out of five consumers would qualify for such inexpensive coverage if they sought it out. But only about a third of actual insurance sales under the Affordable Care Act ended up costing $10 or less a month in premiums.

We evaluate the statement Generally false.

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