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By Bill Wichert May 11, 2012

Frank Lautenberg claims the national health care reform “put 30 million people on health care rolls that weren't there before”

Many provisions of the national health care reform law have yet to take effect, but U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg recently made it sound like the landmark legislation already has brought coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans.

The Democratic senator visited the Rutgers-Camden campus last week to discuss an effort to prevent student loan interest rates from increasing. But in response to a question about health care coverage, Lautenberg touted the benefits of the reform signed into law in March 2010.

"Just remember this: the president's health care bill put 30 million people on health care rolls that weren't there before," Lautenberg told the crowd on May 3.

The number cited by Lautenberg is solid, but the timing is off, PolitiFact New Jersey found.

The health care reform is estimated to provide insurance coverage to about 30 million additional people, but not until after many of the law’s provisions are implemented in the years ahead.

At the earliest, the number of newly insured Americans would reach 30 million in 2016, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In a statement, Lautenberg spokesman Caley Gray responded to our findings:

"The President's health care reform bill is working for millions of people. It's going to put at least 30 million people on the rolls and millions in New Jersey have already benefited from new access, lower costs and better service."

Now, let’s explain some of the major features of the health care reform.

Signed into law by President Barack Obama, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes various measures to boost health insurance coverage. Some of the most notable provisions are the individual mandate; the expansion of Medicaid; and the creation of insurance exchanges.

The individual mandate is the requirement that residents have health insurance, with certain exemptions. Medicaid eligibility will be expanded to individuals under 65 years of age with income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase private health insurance through the new exchanges.

Each of those provisions takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Given the impact of those provisions, the health care reform is projected to increase the number of nonelderly individuals with health insurance by 30 million as of 2016, according to estimates released in March by the Congressional Budget Office. That number would increase to 33 million in 2021, the budget office said.

However, the forthcoming decision of the U.S. Supreme Court could throw off those projections. The nation’s highest court heard arguments in March about, among other issues, the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

If the individual mandate is eliminated, the budget office has stated about 16 million fewer Americans would have health insurance in 2021.

Our ruling

During his May 3 appearance on the Rutgers-Camden campus, Lautenberg made this claim about the health care reform law: "Just remember this: the president's health care bill put 30 million people on health care rolls that weren't there before."

Based on the latest projections, the health care reform may lead to insurance coverage for about 30 million additional Americans -- but contrary to what Lautenberg suggested, that has not happened yet. The increase in newly insured people is estimated to reach 30 million in 2016.

We rate the statement Half True.

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Our Sources

Lautenberg Q&A, a video posted on YouTube on May 3, 2012

PolitiFact, Obama says health law will kick in for millions next year, Nov. 3, 2011

Congressional Budget Office, CBO and JCT’s Estimates of the Effects of the Affordable Care Act on the Number of People Obtaining Employment-Based Health Insurance, March 2012

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, The Uninsured: A Primer, October 2011

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Implementation Timeline, accessed May 9, 2012

Congressional Budget Office, Effects of Eliminating the Individual Mandate to Obtain Health Insurance, March 20, 2012

Congressional Budget Office, Cost estimate of health care reform legislation, March 20, 2010

Congressional Budget Office, Updated Estimates for the Insurance Coverage Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, March 2012

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Key Features of the Affordable Care Act, By Year, accessed May 7, 2012

E-mail interview with Caley Gray, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, May 8, 2012

New York Times, Looking Ahead, Republicans Examine Options in Health Care Fight, April 3, 2012

PolitiFact, Obama ad claims credit for millions gaining health care, Nov. 2, 2011

Congressional Budget Office, CBO’s Analysis of the Major Health Care Legislation
Enacted in March 2010, March 30, 2011

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More by Bill Wichert

Frank Lautenberg claims the national health care reform “put 30 million people on health care rolls that weren't there before”

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