In The White House, Rose Garden ceremonies are usually reserved for big things; major legislation signing ceremonies, the arrival of a foreign head of state, and big American occasions.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama used the symbolism of the Rose Garden to take a victory lap, of sorts. Because his one hallmark public policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act, tripped some magical 7 million figure of people who have signed up for health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.
He should enjoy this victory lap, because every single indicator from here on out points to a very short celebration.
At his victory lap, the president refused to take questions from the news media. That's not surprising, but it is telling. The president and his staff are refusing to tell the America people just how many of the so-called 7 million - if that is an accurate figure - are actually premium-paying accounts. That is substantially a more important number than the aggregate 7 million figure.
The Obama administration is also refusing to tell the American people just how many of the 7 million will be receiving federal subsidies. One would think that information is vitally important to know and to convey to the American public; how many people are paying in and how much the government is paying out. But not a peep from the Rose Garden yesterday.
But the elephant in the room is a just-released study by the non-partisan and well-regarded RAND Corporation, which indicates that only 850,000 people are now premium-paying account-holders who were without healthcare insurance before Obamacare. 850,000 people? All this turmoil, partisanship, divisiveness and the near-destruction of the U.S. health care system, over 850,000 people in a country of more than 300 million?
Instead of forcing an unpopular Obamacare on America and turning our health care system into a giant ball of tangled Christmas tree lights, was it too much to ask our president if he could have focused on these 850,000 people first, and those who truly need assistance, without disassembling the entire U.S. health care system. Had he done so, he would have prevented this national nightmare and kept our world-class health care system intact.
Mind you, for many years we heard President Obama and the Democrats declare that there were 45 million Americans without health care insurance. It was always a bogus number, but for arguments sake, let's say that it is 45 million who had no insurance. Where are they? Why haven't they signed-up? What's with this magical 7 million figure? Where are the 45 million uninsured?
If RAND Corporation is correct and only 850,000 people have purchased insurance who didn't have it before, then that means the balance of this 7 million is mostly comprised of people who had health insurance, were presumably happy with their health insurance, but had to give up their insurance because of Obamacare.
In fact, we know that roughly 5.9 million Americans were knocked off their health care by Obamacare. So these people had no choice but to re-sign-up through Obamacare, receive less health care, for a larger monthly premium and annual deductible.
Where Are The Young?
Lastly, just a month ago, the percentage of those reported to have signed-up for Obamacare who are young and healthy was substantially low; unworkably low. Young and healthy people must sign up for Obamacare to offset the cost of signing up older, less-healthy customers.
The answer to this "young and healthy" question is the key to the whole house of cards. This number defines success or failure of Obamacare. But, again, no peep from the Rose Garden.
From all reports, the young are not signing up for Obamacare. 38% is the magic number of young needed to finance and maintain Obamacare, but the latest numbers from last month suggest only 24% have enrolled in Obamacare.
Thirty-eight percent is a very specific target in the calculus of Obamacare. It's not a figure that can be fudged. If Obamacare even gets to 37% instead of 38%, it is an imbalance and a possible loss of many millions of dollars, perhaps billions. The figure of 24% of young and healthy is a systemic disaster; a catastrophic and unsustainable number for Obamacare to survive as a system.
If that "young and healthy" figure is not at 38%, then basic mathematics - fourth grade math - makes it perfectly clear that Obamacare is a financial disaster on a global stage.
But even though all of these questions remain unanswered - and the Obama administration remains silent on the big questions swirling around Obamacare, Tuesday's White House Rose Garden ceremony was some great theater! Now reality will set in.
Jeffrey L. Taylor is managing partner of USGRI.com. He has served on Capitol Hill in several capacities and served in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter at @USGRI_Lobbyist.