Even by the standards of American politics, where distortion and exaggeration are practically a form of currency, Donald Trump stands out for his total disregard for the truth. He gets up and just rants, throwing out false claims like a Gatlin gun of bullshit. The latest:
At one point in a July 11, 2015, speech in Phoenix, he took aim at the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
He singled out the healthcare.gov website, which was unveiled in the fall of 2013 with a panoply of bugs and glitches, calling it “the $5 billion website for Obamacare, which never worked. Still doesn’t work.”
PolitiFact documents that both claims are false, it didn’t cost $5 billion and it’s working pretty darn well after a rough start.
The cost of the website has been a bone of contention ever since its launch, partly because federal contracting is complex, involving some 60 major contracts. Our friends at the Washington Post Fact Checker grappled with this question over the course of two separate reports that included several interim updates as new data surfaced.
Officially, the Department of Health and Human Services says the website cost $834 million. That’s the number offered by then-HHS Secretary-designate Sylvia Mathews Burwell at a Senate hearing on May 8, 2014.
As of Feb. 28, 2014, Burwell told lawmakers, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services — the part of HHS responsible for the website — “has obligated a total of approximately $834 million on marketplace-related (information technology) contracts and interagency agreements.”
Not everyone has taken that figure at face value. Bloomberg Government undertook a study that used a more generous definition of the relevant federal spending. In the study, released in September 2014, researchers included several additional costs beyond the government’s official estimate — $387 million in spending by the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies beyond HHS, as well as a $300 million contract to process paper applications, and additional spending by HHS after the cutoff for Burwell’s estimate.
Using this broader net, Bloomberg Government came up with a figure of $2.1 billion. That’s bigger than the official estimate, but it’s still not as large as what Trump said.
This part of Trump’s claim is easier to debunk. The proof is in the millions of Americans who have used the healthcare.gov website to obtain insurance coverage.
According to the most recent data released by HHS, covering the open-enrollment period between November 2014 to February 2015, a total of 11.7 million Americans selected or were automatically enrolled in an insurance plan for 2015 using the online marketplaces. Of that, 8.84 million signed up through the federal marketplace — healthcare.gov — with the remainder signing up through state-run websites. (These figures are not limited to those who have already made their first premium payment.)
So, clearly, the site is working.
They rate this claim as false, like nearly everything Trump says.