How many people “enrolled” in ObamaCare have paid their first month of premiums?

posted at 1:51 pm on December 5, 2013 by Allahpundit

Health-care reporters have been zeroed in lately on the 834 error rate, i.e. the rate of garbled or phantom enrollment data transmitted from to insurance companies as people sign up. WaPo claimed the other day that the rate is as high as one-third, but HHS, knowing a looming PR catastrophe when it sees one, has refused to give reporters a hard number. The media’s focus on that is all to the good — the higher the 834 error rate, the more chaos there’ll be next month in sorting out the big surge of applications in December — but there’s another key rate that’s being overlooked. Namely, what’s the rate of people who somehow, miraculously, have completed the sign-up process on but then failed to send a payment to their new insurer for their first month of premiums? I haven’t seen a single estimate of that yet even though it’s a crucial metric: If you don’t pay by New Year’s Eve, you’re not enrolled, even if you successfully signed up on the website. If there’s a huge nonpayment rate among new sign-ups, there’ll be a huge number of people who show up to see the doctor next month only to find, to their great confusion and annoyance, that they have no coverage because they haven’t paid yet.

That brings me to this new piece from CNN Money, from which I learned two important things. One: If you sign up but fail to pay by December 31st, it’s not a simple matter of your coverage being suspended until you pony up. Your enrollment is void and you have to re-enroll on the website in January. Imagine how well is likely to cope if, next month, there are suddenly hundreds of thousands of people flooding into the site trying to sign up again because they forgot to pay on time before. And two: At least one insurer out there is keeping tabs on its nonpayment rate and sharing that number with the media. And the results are … not good:

While the Obama administration has reported that more than 100,000 Americans picked plans in October, the first month of open enrollment, it’s not known how many of them have paid.

One insurer, Physicians Health Plan of Northern Indiana, has received payments from only about 20% of applicants, nearly all using the firm’s online portal, said Jim Brunnemer, the chief financial officer. It is sending invoices and email reminders to those who haven’t yet sealed the deal. If payment isn’t made by New Year’s Eve, PHP has been told by federal officials that it must void the application.

Another complication is that insurers also don’t have a lot of time to process applications and send out ID cards. The timeline, particularly over the holiday week, will prove “challenging” for some companies, one industry executive said.

Yesterday I guesstimated, based on the most recent enrollment numbers, that something like 1.5 million people will sign up by December 23rd. Not every insurer will have a payment rate as poor as the one in Indiana cited above, but even if you triple it and assume 60 percent are paying on time, that’s still 600,000 people — roughly the population of Washington D.C. — that went to the trouble of signing up and then, for various and unknown reasons, didn’t complete enrollment by tendering payment. Maybe that’s because they’re short on cash right now, maybe they meant to pay and simply forgot, or maybe they didn’t read the fine print and thought they wouldn’t be expected to pay until January. My guess is that most of them fall into the last group. Which means all hell’s going to break loose next month.

unless the White House comes up with another “workaround.” They’ve already proved that they’re willing to overpay insurers temporarily in the interest of kickstarting enrollment; why wouldn’t they also offer to cover the first month of premiums for new enrollees who forgot to pay so that the missing revenue is available to insurers? Enrollees could pay the feds back later, maybe by having the value of those premiums withheld from their tax refunds in April if need be. (That’s how the mandate penalty will be collected, after all.) Given how lawless O has been in suspending the employer mandate and un-canceling plans, and given his willingness to perform frantic triage on the law politically by extending deadlines regardless of the policy consequences, it’s hard to believe he’d allow the nonpayment problem to wreak havoc next month. That’s the last thing Democrats need once they’ve finally made it past December 23rd and caught their breath over the holidays. Obama’s going to do something to “solve” this problem too. With your money, of course.

Back to the 834 problem, though. To prepare for today’s daily media conference call with HHS, watch Bob Laszewski’s interview with Megyn Kelly from last night. The key bit is the end of the clip when Laszewski insists, contra the White House’s claims that they improved the back end of as part of the big site upgrade before the November 30th repair deadline, that the 834 error rate was just as high on Monday of this week as it’s been in the past. If he’s right and that doesn’t change soon, insurers will have an unholy mess on their hands next month in sorting out hundreds of thousands of indecipherable enrollments. But look on the bright side: Even a low rate of accurate data is better than zero — which is what it is right now for Medicaid enrollments transmitted from to the states. Stay tuned. Exit quotation: “The third aide, who works for a [Democratic] senator up for reelection in 2014, said the White House had ‘s–t the bed.'”

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I shall not sign up for their despotic insurance plan.

I shall not pay their fine even the temporary pittance that it is., if they come after me for not paying their ‘protection’.

If I get sick, I’ll pay cash to the doctor, hospital, like I have for the last 20 years. If I don’t have enough money or assets, I’ll suffer or die.

I shall not comply.

LegendHasIt on December 5, 2013 at 5:25 PM

I love you, man. . . . . . . : )
Oh, … and “dittos.”

We need more people to make this statement, loud and clear.

listens2glenn on December 5, 2013 at 7:31 PM

I love one of Drudge’s headlines:

50,000 Sign up for Internet Gambling in NJ; 741 for Obamacare…

Bwahaha, translated: 50,741 have signed up for gambling.

hillsoftx on December 5, 2013 at 2:01 PM

…I love that translation! ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

KOOLAID2 on December 5, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Why do you have to pay for free insurance?


hillsoftx on December 5, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Lanceman on December 5, 2013 at 11:08 PM

How many people have lost their insurance ?

7 million?

8 million?

10 million?

dogsoldier on December 6, 2013 at 5:15 AM


TX-96 on December 6, 2013 at 6:21 AM

Anyone else considering changing their name to “Period.”

As in “You like your insurance, you can keep your insurance, Period.”

I’m fortunate this year that my insurance already met the faux Obamacare standards and that my employer negotiated only a 14% increase in premiums. But I know…very lucky.

But now my employer is looking a ways to reduce costs, such as buyouts of current older and more expensive employees, in anticipation of next year’s expected fiasco.

Question: Lynch mobs or will many Democrats finally consider that Obama needs to go…out of town on a rail, if necessary.

ProfShadow on December 6, 2013 at 7:33 AM

Don’t worry the Big O will decree that they still have insurance. Then it will be the insurance companies problem.

Viator on December 6, 2013 at 5:58 PM

After this fiasco, if Republicans don’t take back the entire Congress next year, it will just sadly confirm for me that we Americans are some dumb mofos. Please God don’t let that happen cause I don’t want to have to move to Antarctica.

NavyMustang on December 7, 2013 at 10:09 PM

“Your enrollment is void and you have to re-enroll on the website in January. ”

I think we all know what’s probably going to happen here. In the next week or two, Valerie Jarett will realize the looming disaster and then order Obama to tell Sebelius to concoct some sort of new rule to cover this. It will be something along the lines of, “if you’re in the system then your insurer will be required to keep you on, but with a deadline for payment of mid-Nov 2014.” That’s how banana republics operate. Laws are optional.

WarEagle01 on December 8, 2013 at 8:53 AM