Celebration: Obamacare 'Enrollees' Pass Three Million* Mark

Posted: Jan 26, 2014 10:36 AM

Pop the cork, America! The Obamacare exchanges crossed the three million enrollee threshold late last week, according to an HHS press release hailing the "milestone." Actually, you might want to keep that champagne on ice for the time being. Phil Klein:

About 3 million Americans have now signed up for insurance through President Obama's health care law since the debut of the law's exchanges on Oct. 1, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Friday. HHS did not specify when the exchanges hit the 3 million mark. Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters replied by email: "We hit 3 (million) this week, don’t have an exact date." But there's also an important caveat. HHS still hasn't disclosed how many of those who have selected a plan through the health care law have actually paid for it, which is how insurers typically define enrollment.

Yeah, remember this? The administration doesn't know how many of those Americans who've "selected plans" through Obamacare's exchanges are paid up, and therefore actually covered. Health insurance industry expert Bob Laszewski has reported that non-payment rates could end up somewhere in the 10 to 30 percent range. That means that hundreds of thousands of the "enrollees" being touted by the Obama administration aren't fully enrolled. But for the sake of argument, let's play along with HHS' figures. They say they've signed up three million people as of late January. The law's open enrollment period ends after March 31st (barring yet another delay/extension). Team Obamacare projected that they'd enroll seven million Americans by then. According to their own numbers, they're less than halfway to that goal, with just over two months to go. There's a reason why Kathleen Sebelius is trying to pretend that seven million was never the target they were aiming for. They've also tried to back away from their demographic goals on the composition of risk pools. Their revisionism hasn't impressed or persuaded a top credit rating agency, which just downgraded health insurers due to the pernicious uncertainty and ominous enrollment statistics plaguing the law. Over at the liberal, goalpost-shifting WonkBlog, a writer (evidently rather hungry for any good news) excitedly declares California a success story in all of this. The Weekly Standard's John McCormack rains facts on this wishful parade:

"Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 424,936. That's how many people California enrolled in Obamacare policies between October 1 and December 31," wrote Klein and Soltas. "The goal for the reach [sic] by the end of March is between 487,000 and 696,000 -- and it now looks very much attainable." The WonkBlog report was a bit off: 424,936 is only the number of people who signed up by December 31 and qualified for subsidies. The total number of sign-ups, for both subsidized and unsubsidized plans, was about 500,000. Furthermore, it's inaccurate to call these people "enrollees" because Covered California has refused to say how many paid their first month's premium, which is required to actually be enrolled in a plan.

Those inaccuracies and, um, technicalities aside, the bigger problem with the California success narrative is that the state's enrollment figures are dwarfed by the the number of Californians whose plans were canceled because of Obamacare. As we're seeing across the country, the majority of "new" enrollees under Obamacare were previously insured. McCormack provides this chart that breaks down the numbers:

His conclusion, based on the data:

It's very likely that that fewer than 200,000 of California's 5.5 million uninsured residents (3.3. million of whom are eligible to enter the exchange) signed up for Obamacare by January 1. After spending $1 billion on developing and advertising the exchange in a blue state where views about the law are more favorable than the nation as a whole, is that really a success?

Obamacare supporters may answer that question in the affirmative. The problem for the White House is that there just aren't that many Obamacare supporters in general. A Fox News poll released on Friday showed the law slipping to a new approval low of (36/59). Obamacare is opposed by 64 percent of independents, 57 percent of women, and 59 percent of young voters. A majority of respondents said they expect the law to increase taxes, increase premiums and increase the deficit. Just over one-third said they expect Obamacare to increase their quality of care.

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