Today, March 31, is the last day to enroll in Obamacare exchange plans -- sort of. All one must do to buy some extra time is take advantage of the latest "non-extension" extension, which is available to anyone who checks a box saying that they encountered some sort of difficulty ahead of the original deadline. This self-attestation relies on the honor system. Non-verification has become a staple of this law; by my count, the expanded enrollment period is the fourth major exception that's been made on that front. A few things to bear in mind as the malleable quasi-deadline approaches:
(1) The administration will inevitably put out a triumphal enrollment number, possibly even approaching 7 million -- their (subsequently disclaimed) initial target for 2014. But even some members of the mainstream media have begun to notice that the White House's figures aren't accurate. By the administration's metrics, unpaid "selections" of plans are being counted as enrollments, even as experts estimate that between 20 and 25 percent of this inflated total will have their non-enrollments dropped due to lack of payment. In other words, a significant percentage of the grand total number represents people who simply are not covered. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen reviews another aspect of the shell game, which we've discussed at length:
The goal was to cover the uninsured. That was the justification for all the chaos and disruption Americans have experienced — and that is the standard by which the administration should be judged. So how is it doing? We don’t know yet, but the signs are not good. A March survey by McKinsey & Co. found that only 27 percent of consumers who had purchased new coverage in the individual insurance market in February were previously uninsured — up from 11 percent in January. But McKinsey also found that the payment rate for the previously uninsured was just 53 percent, compared with 86 percent for the previously insured. We don’t know how many of those policies were purchased through Obamacare, but remember: Those who sign up and do not pay are not actually enrolled. Goldman Sachs is projecting that only 1 million Obamacare sign-ups will come from previously uninsured Americans. Indeed, it estimates that the number of total signups will be just 4 million — not 6 million, as the administration claims — because “HHS figures .?.?. count all persons who selected an ACA exchange plan regardless of whether or not they have actually completed the enrollment process by paying their premium.” Goldman Sachs also anticipates that fully 75 percent of all the Obamacare sign-ups will be from people who already had insurance.
This is an amusing and useful illustration of the White House's ludicrous "enrollment" standards:
The administration insists that it does not have the data to tell how many sign-ups have been completed through payment, nor do they know how many of the enrollments they're touting come from people who had insurance before the law went into effect. But recent allegations contend that Sebelius and friends are not as ignorant of these stats as they're letting on, perhaps further evidence that these realities are sufficiently ugly to merit concealing from public view. In numerous surveys and polls, a substantial majority of previously-uninsured Americans have indicated that they haven't signed up for Obamacare. Among those who've browsed options and chosen not to purchase, the top factor has been cost. Plus, based on the administration's own estimates, only about one-fourth of "enrollees" are young and healthy -- a bad miss on projections of close to 40 percent.
(2) The myth that many of Obamacare's problems are attributable to obstructionist Republican governors who refused to embrace the law in their states still persists in some quarters, but it should be put to rest. While it's true that the administration reportedly expected it would be responsible for...zero states' exchanges (as opposed to 36 in reality), that's a function of stunning incompetence more than anything else. Among the Democrat-led states that bear-hugged Obamacare from the very beginning are some of the law's most embarrassing failures: Hawaii's enrollment trickle, Oregon's comprehensive (and possibly criminal) face-plant, and Maryland's admitted collapse. Indeed, Martin O'Malley's Maryland wasted $126 million in taxpayer money on an exchange that's failed so badly that the state has decided to scrap it altogether and start over. Also, despite the president's assurances, the federal exchange still lacks major elements of its "back end." Even the front end has experienced major troubles down the stretch. It was down for maintenance during "youth enrollment day" last month, and it even crashed earlier this morning. Not due to a crush of traffic, mind you, but because of a computer glitch.
(3) Higher costs and premiums are a central feature of this law, in spite of Democrats' repeated promises. The bad news applies to young people especially, which may explain their paltry enrollment rates. Healthcare executives, practitioners and experts are all pointing to double-digit premium increases in 2015. The latest grim prediction from the CEO of the respected Cleveland Clinic:
"Out of people that have signed up about three quarters will find premiums higher than previously with other insurance."
Bob Laszewski warns that if these large hikes go into effect, Obamacare will be on a path to collapsing the individual market. He says there's a potential way to save the ship, but it would involve significant changes -- and soon. Nearly two-thirds of Americans expect Obamacare to raise healthcare costs. The law is as unpopular with the public as it's ever been.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography