Carney: That terrible youth ObamaCare enrollment number is “solid news”

posted at 9:31 pm on January 16, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

It’s a good thing someone decided to put those goalposts on wheels, amirite?

We’ve talked about this before, but the basics again, are these: ObamaCare requires a bunch of young people who are healthy and inexpensive to sign up for ObamaCare in order to make the overall risk pool better, thereby keeping premium costs from what is termed a “death spiral.” The death spiral happens when a bunch of sick, old, expensive people make it a priority to sign up for coverage, which is very attractive to them because they were getting very expensive coverage or none at all before, while all the low-risk, inexpensive people notice they’re getting hosed and opt not to buy. Once that happens, premiums must creep (or jump in giant leaps) higher to compensate for the pool’s high risk. When that happens, more low-risk people leave the pool, and the problem spirals out of control as premiums spiral higher and higher. This is not ideal, and yet thus far, ObamaCare’s open enrollment, with hours of dedication and repeated tries required to sign up, seems calculated to scare off young, web-savvy people who don’t need insurance all that bad while letting in only those most dedicated to running the government’s gauntlet of incompetence to buy it. Even if you don’t go full death spiral, per se, a worse mix than expected will lead to higher premiums.

The proof is in the enrollment numbers, which are a special cocktail of one part nonsense, one part evasion, and one part pure distilled ignorance. But we do seem to know that about 24 percent of enrollees are age 18-34, according to a long awaited HHS moment of transparency. The number the White House wanted in the mix was 39 percent.

Uh oh:

In December, a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation identified a “worst-case scenario” situation in which just 25 percent of enrollees were in the 18-to-34 demographic.

In a conference call held earlier Monday and embargoed for release at 4 p.m. EST, Nancy Delew, acting deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, insisted that the number of young adults who had enrolled so far was “similar to our expectations” and proportional to the percentage they represent of the under-65 population.

Along with other officials on the call, Delew emphasized that the administration expected younger people with lower medical costs to sign up later in the process. The open enrollment period lasts until March 31, after which point Americans will be subject to the individual mandate penalty for failing to obtain health insurance.

Though there’s a plausible case to be made that younger Americans will wait until later to sign up, the administration is still in a deep hole. Because the current number of young adult signups is significantly less than 40 percent, to make up ground, signups in the coming months will have to be significantly higher than 40 percent.


And, what do you when you’re missing a target? Change the target!

White House officials consistently—and accurately—argue that the most important metric for Obamacare’s success this year is the mix of young and old enrollees. But they’re backing away from their own goals for that mix.

Getting young people into the system is critical to holding down premiums, and therefore to keeping each state’s insurance market stable. Administration officials previously said their target was for young adults to make up about 38 percent of Obamacare enrollees. Now that standard is down to about 30 percent. Or maybe even 24 percent—where the mix stands now.

The Health and Human Services Department released its first age breakdown on Monday, showing that about 24 percent of Obamacare enrollees are between 18 and 34. Officials from HHS and the White House heralded the figure as a success because it makes an insurance “death spiral”—Obamacare’s worst-case scenario—appear all but impossible.

The administration may well hit its initial 38 percent target, but it’s apparently abandoning that goal preemptively, declaring success just by avoiding the worst possible outcome.

Guy Benson:

Hell, why not drop the threshold down to 12 percent? Then they would have doubled their goal! Great success! This is hardly the first time the Obamacare brain trust has simply deserted an inconvenient metric mid-stream. In addition to all of the website functionality issues and punted deadlines, here are a handful of prime examples:

(1) We were told that officials expected 7 million Americans to sign up for private coverage under the new law by the end of March. As that target slid out of reach, Kathleen Sebelius basically said “never mind that was never our goal anyway.

Cick over to read the rest of his thorough and depressing list.

Don’t worry, y’all. This is solid news:


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Ham is right. Its a death spiral.

SparkPlug on January 16, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Ham is right. Low risk people are getting hosed.

SparkPlug on January 16, 2014 at 9:34 PM

The tax penalty is obviously not enough. Failure to sign up for health insurance must be criminalized.

Also, all civilian government employees should be requred to buy their insurance through the exchanges, without any subsidies not generally available to honest Americans. Preferably before any security holes have been fixed.

These steps should help ensure that the Affordable Care Act is successful.

malclave on January 16, 2014 at 9:35 PM

Mary Katharine? If you see that fatass from PMSNBC, would you please kick him in the crotch as hard as you can? We men promise to look the other way in this case.

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 9:35 PM

Mary Katharine? If you see that fatass from PMSNBC, would you please kick him in the crotch as hard as you can? We men promise to look the other way in this case.

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 9:35 PM

Don’t they all fit that description? Including the women…

22044 on January 16, 2014 at 9:37 PM

And 5+ million are loosing their insurance for what????

20 million that the Dems claimed didn’t have insurance?

But we have 2 million signed up?

Is there something wrong with this picture???

Electrongod on January 16, 2014 at 9:38 PM

As solid as my morning constitution after my double espresso.

Murphy9 on January 16, 2014 at 9:40 PM

I think the beard is due to Carney now drinking heavily. He’s like an ObamaCare before/after picture.

JeremiahJohnson on January 16, 2014 at 9:42 PM

With the revelations today about the continued and increasing security concerns, good luck on getting the invincibles demo. The young folks I know (and even those like me, no longer in their salad days) aren’t about to risk their info on such a site. This whole thing is about to redefine the Titanic metaphor, and no one will be playing ballads on the deck of this sinking ship.

TXUS on January 16, 2014 at 9:47 PM

I think the beard is due to Carney now drinking heavily. He’s like an ObamaCare before/after picture.

JeremiahJohnson on January 16, 2014 at 9:42 PM

The little worthless mealy mouth fk is just trying to show he finally got his mini-pubes.

arnold ziffel on January 16, 2014 at 9:48 PM

arnold ziffel on January 16, 2014 at 9:48 PM

Lol. Well put.

SparkPlug on January 16, 2014 at 9:54 PM

Carney is too lazy to shave and Barky was complaining about the stubble-burn when they make out.

viking01 on January 16, 2014 at 9:55 PM

I think the beard is due to Carney now drinking heavily.

JeremiahJohnson on January 16, 2014 at 9:42 PM

Could you lay down that sh!t sober?

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 9:55 PM

Why should they sign-up there’s no penalty until you file your 2014 taxes. There’s plenty of time for them to sign-up.

RickB on January 16, 2014 at 9:55 PM

And how many of that 24% are actually paying for insurance.

mitchellvii on January 16, 2014 at 9:57 PM

Why should they sign-up there’s no penalty until you file your 2014 taxes. There’s plenty of time for them to sign-up.

RickB on January 16, 2014 at 9:55 PM

Has anybody determined if the penalty is legally enforceable on the tax return yet?

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 9:57 PM

The Health and Human Services Department released its first age breakdown on Monday, showing that about 24 percent of Obamacare enrollees are between 18 and 34. Officials from HHS and the White House heralded the figure as a success because it makes an insurance “death spiral”—Obamacare’s worst-case scenario—appear all but impossible.

The administration may well hit its initial 38 percent target, but it’s apparently abandoning that goal preemptively, declaring success just by avoiding the worst possible outcome.

I don’t understand this idea that the “Obamacare” enrollment numbers themselves are what’s relevant to stopping the “death spiral”. It seems the relevant number from the insurance company’s standpoint is the total mix of all people in the individual market, whether they enrolled on the exchanges or off of them. Ultimately, that’s how the insurance company has to set its prices. Whether they go through the exchanges is relevant to whether the individual pays vs the government, but whether a given array of plans is sustainable under the current enrollment percentages depends on the insurer’s total cost for their individual plans, vs total revenues. From that point of view, an additional sick person with a pre-existing condition who signs up off of the exchanges is just as damaging as one who signs up on them, and I a healthy person is just as profitable if they enroll outside the exchange, as well).

Why aren’t the total numbers the ones being watched?

Everyone on both sides seems to be focusing just on the exchange figures. What am I missing?

RINO in Name Only on January 16, 2014 at 9:59 PM

What penalty?

SparkPlug on January 16, 2014 at 10:01 PM

What penalty?

SparkPlug on January 16, 2014 at 10:01 PM

The fine, MERM, the fine!

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 10:02 PM

And 5+ million are loosing their insurance for what????

20 million that the Dems claimed didn’t have insurance?

But we have 2 million signed up?

Is there something wrong with this picture???

Electrongod on January 16, 2014 at 9:38 PM

…math!

KOOLAID2 on January 16, 2014 at 10:06 PM

Custer’s battlefield numbers at Little Bighorn was actually good news.

VorDaj on January 16, 2014 at 10:08 PM

Lol. Well put.

SparkPlug on January 16, 2014 at 9:54 PM

Sparky, the only thing that keeps me sane is knowing that we are all suffering under this nonsense and can at least laugh together. Overall HA is quite fun. Don’t always like the news but it ain’t the messengers fault. Do like the fact my music appreciation is up and urban dictionary is sometimes needed. I try and stay at least in the 2011 time frame.

arnold ziffel on January 16, 2014 at 10:09 PM

It’s alive! It’s alive! It’s alive!

Baghdad Bob has been reanimated!

VorDaj on January 16, 2014 at 10:10 PM

The young and healthy are signing up by the millions! By the tens of millions! By the hundreds of millions! They are flooding in and with hard cash! Even beyond our wildest expectations! Soon now they will overwhelm the very few sick people and subsidized people who have signed up! Do not listen to the very few naysayers. They are just up to their usually tricks of spreading disinformation. Hit them with shoes! Always know that whatever I say is the truth.

VorDaj on January 16, 2014 at 10:16 PM

Paying with hard cash? They only take Swiss Francs now?

viking01 on January 16, 2014 at 10:26 PM

Note to BOTH democrat and republican politicians; a vote is given with little to no cost to the voter. This insurance thing cost people $500 and up…per month…and then it costs $6000 before the insurance actually starts paying anything.

Marketing for getting dollars out of the pocket is way, WAY harder than getting them to mark a ballot.

jukin3 on January 16, 2014 at 10:39 PM

And how many of that 24% are actually paying for insurance.

mitchellvii on January 16, 2014 at 9:57 PM

How many are not on medicaid?

As far as all the state exchanges go the medicaid to (supposed) paying Obama Care is 2 to 1. That is a death spiral on steroids, A-rod steroids.

jukin3 on January 16, 2014 at 10:44 PM

Why should they sign-up there’s no penalty until you file your 2014 taxes. There’s plenty of time for them to sign-up.

RickB on January 16, 2014 at 9:55 PM

It’s not a penalty. IT’S A TAX! What nobody is explaining is that in order for it to be a tax it has to be assessed, and there is no process to assess the tax. BUT, it is not a penalty.

HiJack on January 16, 2014 at 10:44 PM

Allow me to re-write that for the low information voter:

The death spiral happens when the internet provides an alternative to regular US Mail for personal and business communicationand people discover they don’t need to buy stamps anymore. Once that happens, the price of a stamp must creep (or jump in giant leaps) higher to compensate for the lower stamp sales. When that happens, more people stop using the US mail, and the problem spirals out of control as the cost of a stamp spirals higher and higher.

And what you end up with is a government program that can only deliver junk.

BobMbx on January 16, 2014 at 11:28 PM

Since my “Doogie Howser, Boy Press Secretary” never caught on, I propose a new name for Carney: “Fozzie Bear”!

The age specs were calculated by CBO as minimums to meet the financial needs of the bill according to the specifications of Congress (at that time held by Democrats). Obama’s Administration NEVER questioned or disputed them at all. In fact, they agreed with the numbers several times – right up until the rollout failed.

The problem is not so much age as health and income. If the young people who signed up already are disproportionately sick or lower income and getting subsidies, it is bad news for future premiums. And the reason the 7 million/2.7 million mix was needed is because you have to have the healthy working people signed up and paying inflated premiums without subsidies to cover the subsidies themselves and all the benefits to be paid out to older enrollees and Medicaid sign-ups.

There is no “fix” possible. The system is doomed, period.

The only question remaining is if idiot Republicans will double-cross the insurance companies by refusing to cover part of their losses as promised in the law. If insurers get out of the health care business because of losses, what do we do when we finally repeal ObamaCare?

Adjoran on January 16, 2014 at 11:35 PM

Has anybody determined if the penalty is legally enforceable on the tax return yet?

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 9:57 PM

I don’t understand the question. This is the IRS we’re talking about… what does legality have to do with it?

malclave on January 16, 2014 at 11:47 PM

“Let me be clear… we are at war with EastAsia. We have always BEEN at war with EastAsia…”

At first the goal was 7 million signed up *what within the first month*?

We’re at 3 1/2 months, and they have just crossed the 2 million mark, and they apparently have no idea how many of them have ACTUALLY PAID!

20 million uninsured
+5 million who lost insurance
-2 million (let’s be generous and give them that #)

That means we are now at 23 million uninsured from where we started. “Death spiral”? (Oh, and that number is about to get a whole lot worse when the next round of cancellations come in.) EastAsia anyone?

UnderstandingisPower on January 16, 2014 at 11:56 PM

Present US wealth redistribution in a nutshell.

(I said present.)

But it’s all good!

This PSA was brought to you by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Shy Guy on January 17, 2014 at 1:17 AM

Two observations:

1. The question was an obvious plant.

2. Maybe I’m wrong, but it sounds as if, at 1:23, he’s actually laughed at. Anyone else notice this?

Kenz on January 17, 2014 at 1:44 AM

24% seems high to me. If most 18-26 are still on their parents plan, that leaves 27-34 year olds. Is that demo 1/4th of the adult population? I’d be suprised if this stat is not inflated.

steel guy on January 17, 2014 at 6:38 AM

Who advised him on the beard?

Akzed on January 17, 2014 at 8:58 AM

Is Carney turning into the Wolfman? I knew it. Pretty soon he’ll be chewing on sofa cushions and peeing on the carpet.

claudius on January 17, 2014 at 9:48 AM

24% seems high to me. If most 18-26 are still on their parents plan, that leaves 27-34 year olds. Is that demo 1/4th of the adult population? I’d be suprised if this stat is not inflated.

steel guy on January 17, 2014 at 6:38 AM

That seems to be one of many fatal flaws in the plan. It relies on a demographic that it then allows to remain on their parents’ policies.

Russ in OR on January 17, 2014 at 9:50 AM

I’m sorry that this explanation isn’t good. Can someone try to do a better job?

blink on January 17, 2014 at 9:56 AM

The only people who are signing up at this point are people who *need* insurance because of pre-existing conditions or other precarious health situations. So it’s a death spiral to the tenth power.

JimK on January 17, 2014 at 11:01 AM