Obamacare Enrollment Is Back on Track

US President Barack Obama waves and smiles after a reporter asked a question during his departure from the White House in Washington, DC, September 20, 2013.
National Journal
Sam Baker
Add to Briefcase
Sam Baker
Feb. 12, 2014, 10:18 a.m.

With two months left to go, Obama­care en­roll­ment is on track to hand the White House a sig­ni­fic­ant win over the law’s crit­ics.

About 3.3 mil­lion people had signed up for private in­sur­ance plans through the end of Janu­ary, ac­cord­ing to new data the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment re­leased Wed­nes­day. Janu­ary it­self was a little bet­ter than ex­pec­ted, and the growth put the ad­min­is­tra­tion with­in reach of a strong total when open en­roll­ment ends in March.

There are sig­ni­fic­ant gaps in the data that could af­fect as­sess­ment of the law’s ul­ti­mate suc­cess, but bar­ring any wild sur­prises, things are look­ing good for the White House.

Here’s what you need to know from the latest data:

En­roll­ment is on track

The en­roll­ment pro­cess has re­covered from the dis­astrous Health­Care.gov launch, and has made up a lot of the ground it lost to the web­site’s dys­func­tion.

Tak­ing Health­Care.gov‘s woes in­to ac­count, the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice now ex­pects about 6 mil­lion people to sign up by the end of the en­roll­ment win­dow. We’re two-thirds of the way in­to open en­roll­ment, and the law is 55 per­cent of the way to that tar­get.

Some of the law’s crit­ics will surely want to judge en­roll­ment against the tar­gets CBO set be­fore the Health­Care.gov launch, which puts it fur­ther be­hind — but still not by much. Real-life en­roll­ment is 25 per­cent short of HHS’ pre-Health­Care.gov es­tim­ates.

Janu­ary saw a slight drop-off, as ex­pec­ted

White House of­fi­cials and health policy ex­perts fully ex­pec­ted Janu­ary en­roll­ment to be lower than Decem­ber’s. They figured Decem­ber would rep­res­ent an en­roll­ment surge, as people tried to meet the dead­line to get cov­er­age that began on Jan. 1 — the earli­est pos­sible date — and ex­pec­ted en­roll­ment to taper off in Janu­ary and Feb­ru­ary.

The drop-off happened, but it was small. About 1.8 mil­lion people en­rolled in Decem­ber, com­pared with 1.1 mil­lion last month.

The num­ber of young people is steady

Any­one who wants Obama­care to work wants to see a lot of young people sign up. (Really, they want to see a lot of healthy people sign up, but we use age as a proxy for health status.)

The ra­tio of young adults was largely un­changed in Janu­ary, hold­ing at about 25 per­cent. That num­ber needs to go up, but it’s still too early to pan­ic. Young people were al­ways ex­pec­ted to sign up at the last minute.

Ini­tially, the White House said it wanted young adults to make up about 38 per­cent of all en­rollees. Sit­ting at 25 per­cent now is a sign that the bench­mark — or something close to it — is achiev­able by the end of March. The mix is good enough now to avoid a “death spir­al,” ac­cord­ing to the Kais­er Fam­ily Found­a­tion, but the high­er the per­cent­age of young en­rollees gets, the lower the like­li­hood of big premi­um in­creases next year.

We don’t know how many people are truly en­rolled

As usu­al, HHS’s re­port con­siders people “en­rolled” as long as they’ve gone through the pro­cess and se­lec­ted a plan. But you’re not truly en­rolled — you don’t have in­sur­ance that you can use — un­til after you’ve paid your first month’s premi­um.

It’s safe to as­sume that some num­ber of people haven’t made that pay­ment, but we don’t know how many. Un­til we do, we won’t know how many people truly are en­rolled in health in­sur­ance via Obama­care.

We don’t know how many un­in­sured people are get­ting covered

The goal of the Af­ford­able Care Act wasn’t simply to cov­er mil­lions of people, but to re­duce the num­ber of un­in­sured by mil­lions of people — 6 mil­lion in the first year, ramp­ing up to about 24 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to CBO’s es­tim­ates. But ini­tial re­ports sug­gest that a lot of the people get­ting covered through the ex­changes were already in­sured; they’re chan­ging their cov­er­age rather than gain­ing it. For now, no one really knows how many pre­vi­ously un­in­sured people are in­cluded in the 3.3 mil­lion total, but that will be a key met­ric of Obama­care’s suc­cess.

What We're Following See More »
NEXT THURSDAY
Trump Transition Team Meeting with Silicon Valley VIPs
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump's "transition team will meet next week with representatives of the tech industry, multiple sources confirmed, even as their candidate largely has been largely shunned by Silicon Valley. The meeting, scheduled for next Thursday at the offices of law and lobbying firm BakerHostetler, will include trade groups like the Information Technology Industry Council and the Internet Association that represent major Silicon Valley companies."

Source:
WHAT WILL PASS?
McConnell Doubts Criminal Justice Reform Can Pass This Year
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
ALSO FIRED UNATTRACTIVE WAITRESSES
Trump Did Business with Cuba
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Today in bad news for Donald Trump:

  • Newsweek found that a company he controlled did business with Cuba under Fidel Castro "despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings." In 1998, he spent at least $68,000 there, which was funneled through a consluting company "to make it appear legal."
  • The Los Angeles Times reports that at a golf club he owns in California, Trump ordered that unattractive female staff be fired and replaced with prettier women.
POST-DEBATE SURVEYS
Clinton Holds Lead in Five Battlegrounds
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

In some of the first state-by-state surveys since Monday night's debate, Hillary Clinton has the edge in five battlegrounds, according to polls by Public Policy Polling. In four-way matchups, Clinton leads Donald Trump 46%-40% in Colorado, 45%-43% in Florida, 44%-42% in North Carolina, 45%-39% in Pennsylvania, and 46%-40% in Virginia. Gary Johnson doesn't top 7% in any state. Voters in all five states thought that Clinton decisively won the debate.

Source:
TIME TO SPLIT
House Passes CR, Sends Bill to President’s Desk
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
×