Email outreach to PolitiFact’s Jon Greenberg, Angie Drobnic Holan

Sent Jan. 21, 2017:

Dear Jon Greenberg, Angie Drobnic Holan,
The fact check you published on Jan. 15, 2017 giving Rand Paul a “Half True” for his claim about Medicaid’s share of ACA coverage contains a major mathematical flaw.The summary of the fact check pulls together the pieces, which do not fit together as your article suggests:

Paul said the vast majority of people that got insurance under Obamacare got it through Medicaid. About 20 million people gained coverage and about 14.5 million of those were under Medicaid or CHIP. But a sizeable fraction of that 14.5 million were eligible before the Affordable Care Act took effect. One estimate said about a quarter of them were previously eligible. Another estimate put it as high as half.

How many gained coverage as a result of the ACA? Your article uses the number 20 million, with about 14.5 million under Medicaid or CHIP. President Obama and Hillary Clinton have claimed 20 million gained insurance through the ACA, and I have found no effort from PolitiFact to question that talking point. Was it too obviously true to question?

What share of that 20 million was as a result of Medicaid? Again, your article uses the number 14.5 million, and specifically refers to it as a share of the 20 million total.

But then there’s the caveat: As many as half that 14.5 million were eligible aside from the ACA. And that’s where the error occurs.

Whatever number PolitiFact places on Medicaid enrollment not connected to the ACA, that number comes off the 20 million gaining coverage through the ACA.

If it’s a quarter of the 14.5 million, then subtract about 3.6 million from 20 million (16.4 million). Would 66 percent ((10.9/16.4) count as the vast majority?

If it’s half of the 14.5 million, then subtract 7.25 million from 20 million (12.75 million). Would 56 percent (7.25/12.75) count as the vast majority?

This doesn’t belong:

Medicaid might account for slightly more than half of those who gained coverage.

It’s improper (that is, deceptive), to divide the number of persons insured by Medicaid through the ACA by the number of persons gaining insurance regardless of the ACA. It is proper to use a nominator and denominator that use the same measure (insured as a result of the ACA).

I’d been wondering for months why PolitiFact never fact-checked Obama or Clinton on the oft-used 20 million claim. Any ideas?

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