The main goal of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is to give uninsured Americans access to health insurance. Yet, the Obama administration has refused to reveal how many people who've signed up were, in fact, previously uninsured.
It turns out, it's not necessarily that the officials don't want to. It's that they can't—because they're not asking applicants the question.
A man enrolls in a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act in Miami.Getty Images
Enrollees on the federal marketplace and most of the 15 state exchanges are never asked about their current or previous insurance status.
All applicants who are seeking subsidies must answer questions about future access to insurance, but they are not asked about prior or current coverage.
Of the 12 state exchanges that answered CNBC's request for information, only Kentucky and New York require enrollees to disclose whether they were previously insured. California, Colorado and Connecticut make the question optional, but did not have information on how many respond.
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"A lot of people could have anticipated this is a question everyone would be asking," said Rachel Garfield, a senior researcher at the Kaiser Family Foundation. But, "the application is really designed to get people into coverage. The question people are asking is more of a research and evaluation question. If I had to guess, I'd say they were just focused on what do we absolutely need to know to get people signed up."
According to the Census Bureau, 48 million Americans were uninsured in 2012. So, will the government ever be able to tell us how many of them obtained insurance in this first enrollment period, which ends in 10 days?
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"We are a looking at a range of data sources to determine how many marketplace enrollees previously had coverage," federal CMS spokesman Aaron Albright told CNBC. "The marketplace application asks applicants only if they are looking to apply for coverage, not whether the consumer currently has coverage. Previous insurance coverage is an important metric, and we hope to have additional information in the future."