Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Factchecking Sarah Palin at CPAC

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin reads from the Dr. Seuss book "Green Eggs and Ham" at the CPAC meeting.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin reads from the Dr. Seuss book "Green Eggs and Ham" at the CPAC meeting. MIKE THEILER / Reuters

Sarah Palin told her fellow conservatives at CPAC that “there are more uninsured today than when Obama began all of this,” referring to the Affordable Care Act. But there is no evidence of that. Annual Census surveys show the percentage of uninsured Americans in 2010, when the ACA became law, was 16.3 percent. It dropped to 15.7 percent in 2011 and 15.4 percent in 2012. Gallup surveys show the percentage of uninsured Americans hit a five-year low in the first two months of this year.

The former Alaska governor gave the closing speech Saturday evening at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day affair hosted annually by the American Conservative Union. Palin brought the confab to a “rousing finish,” as the conservative Newsmax put it, attacking both Democrats and establishment Republicans.

The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee saved some of her sharpest barbs (beginning at about the 22 minute mark) for the man, President Obama, who defeated her and her running mate, John McCain, six years ago.

Palin, March 8: This is the guy who promised to provide for the sick, but there are more uninsured today than when Obama began all of this.

It is too early to determine the full impact of the ACA, but the fact is that the percentage of uninsured Americans has been on the decline since the law took effect — and, conversely, the percentage of the insured has increased. Congressional budget experts project that the law will reduce the number of the uninsured by 13 million by the end of this year.

The Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey shows 16.3 percent of Americans were without health insurance in 2010, when the law took effect. Since then, the rate has fallen to 15.7 percent in 2011 and 15.4 percent in 2012. (The raw numbers have gone down, too, from 50 million uninsured in 2010 to 48 million in 2012.)

As for the state of the “uninsured today,” which was Palin’s time frame, Gallup regularly conducts a survey called the Well-Being Index of more than 28,000 Americans. On March 10, Gallup issued a press release on its latest survey that carried the headline, “U.S. Uninsured Rate Continues to Fall.” The survey, which covered Jan. 2 to Feb. 28, shows the percentage of uninsured Americans hit a new five-year low at 15.9 percent, down from 17.1 percent in the final quarter of 2013.

By the end of 2014, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the law will reduce the number of uninsured Americans by 13 million people. The report (see table B2) says there will be 25 million fewer uninsured Americans in 2024 because of the law.

The Medicaid expansion and the subsidized (and nonsubsidized) policies sold on the health care exchanges did not take effect until January of this year, and there isn’t any good data yet on how many uninsured Americans have gained coverage through the exchanges. We have written that the law’s supporters have overstated the effect of the exchanges in covering the previously uninsured. But there’s no doubt that the Medicaid expansion and the exchanges will extend coverage to millions of uninsured. And other provisions have already helped Americans gain coverage. For example, the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26 took effect Sept. 23, 2010, extending insurance to about 3.1 million young people who otherwise would not have been covered.

The evidence simply does not support Palin’s claim that “there are more uninsured today than when Obama began all of this.”

Factcheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. Based in Philadelphia, Factcheck monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Its goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding. Find a list of Factcheck.org funders here.

Eugene Kiely FACTCHECK.ORG
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