Analysis: Inflated 'Official' Enrollment Data Confirms Slowing Pace, Demographic Problems

Posted: Mar 12, 2014 10:27 AM
Analysis: Inflated 'Official' Enrollment Data Confirms Slowing Pace, Demographic Problems

Dan ran through the basics of the administration's Obamacare data dump from yesterday, but I wanted to follow up with some additional analysis: (1) Exactly one month ago, we highlighted the downward trajectory of monthly Obamacare enrollments, even when taking HHS' figures at face value. Philip Klein explains why yesterday's numbers solidify that trend:

The pace of Americans signing up for privately administered insurance through President Obama's health care law slowed down in February, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services, and youth enrollment is well below target levels set before the program's launch. Weeks before the health care law's exchanges launched Oct. 1, an HHS memo projected that 5.7 million individuals would enroll in a plan through one of Obamacare's exchanges by the end of February. In reality, HHS said Tuesday, just 4.2 million Americans had signed up in the first five months.

Even using their puffed-up data, the White House is still way off pace to hit their original goal -- about which they've taken to lying. And no, the lower sign-ups cannot be explained away by the relative brevity of the month of February:

In January, 1,146,071 individuals signed up for insurance on the exchanges, according to HHS. In February, that number declined to 942,800. That difference cannot be explained away merely because there are fewer days in the month in February. Originally, HHS projected that 212,000 more Americans were going to enroll in a health care plan in February than January, the belief being that enrollment would accelerate over time. The slower pace of signups is potentially worrisome for the health care law, as the administration needs to build momentum in the final weeks of open enrollment, which ends March 31.

(2) In case you'd forgotten, all of the "official" numbers should be accompanied by a large asterisk because the administration tabulates "selected plans" as "enrollments." This means that if someone places an Obamacare plan in a virtual shopping cart but never checks out or pays, that act somehow "counts" as an enrollment. In reality, unpaid-for plans get dropped and their selectors are not covered. Healthcare expert Bob Laszewski estimates that non-payments account for about 20 percent of "sign ups," although some states have much higher delinquency rates. Nearly half of the (shockingly few) previously-uninsured consumers who selected Obamacare plans have failed to pay. Using the conservative 20 percent estimate as a baseline, the more accurate count of overall enrollments since October 1st is 3.4 million -- that's less than half of the overall goal, with only a few weeks to go in open enrollment. Again, the vast, vast majority of enrollees aren't "new." They're people who already had insurance prior to being dislodged from their existing coverage. The purpose of Obamacare was not to insure the insured with more bells and whistles, often at higher prices. The administration says it does not have solid numbers on non-payment rates, and is apparently referring questions about the percentage of previously uninsured consumers to the devastating study linked above:

Here's Laszewki's analysis, updated to reflect the new data:

By their own count, there were 64 million visits to the state and federal health insurance exchanges through January. There were also almost 16 million calls to the state and federal call centers. While I expect these are not all unique visitors, it is hard to argue that the "dogs have not tried the dog food." But by March 1, only 4.2 million people hit the "enroll in a plan" button [not accounting for non-payment triage].

The administration also projected that for the new exchanges to be viable, nearly 40 percent of consumers would need to be young and healthy. They've tried to retroactively back-track on their own math because the numbers weren't looking good. They remain feeble:

In February, individuals between 18 and 34 years old made up just 27 percent of those signing up — the same as January. Cumulatively, just 25 percent of signups have come from that age demographic. This makes it highly unlikely that the administration will meet enrollment goals. If March enrollment roughly doubles from February, and the exchanges end up with 6 million signups, roughly two-thirds of March enrollments would have to be from the 18-34 age group to achieve the target demographic mix.

It looks like the whole "national youth enrollment day" debacle was an epic flop, huh? But I'm sure President Obama's "funny or die" skit will change everything. Or not:

That would be a glittering click-through rate of less than one percent. I'll leave you with a friendly reminder about the wages of an older, sicker risk pool:

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