Which is worse about this story? Is it that only 6,666 people in Alaska have signed up in ObamaCare, or that it’s only the fifth-lowest total among states? The state estimated that more than 139,000 Alaskans would have eligibility to enroll in ObamaCare, but with the deadline approaching for enforcement — kind of, anyway — only five percent of them have done so, reports the Alaska Daily News (via Salena Zito):
In less than two weeks, the health insurance marketplace will close, shutting out Alaskans until the next enrollment cycle and imposing fines on some of the uninsured.
Nearly 5 percent of the 139,422 Alaska residents determined eligible to enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act have actually done so in the first five months since healthcare.gov launched on Oct. 1. With 6,666 enrolled as of the end of February, Alaska has the fifth lowest number of enrollees in the country, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
On Tuesday, a cadre of health officials had a news conference in Anchorage to get the word out about the March 31 enrollment deadline. Some said that Alaska’s rural landscape hampered outreach efforts, but still praised a recent increase in numbers after a rocky first two months.
A “recent increase”? Er … not quite:
n October, the federal government debuted a malfunctioning website and only 53 Alaskans signed on. The next month, that number climbed by 345 people, then 2,958 signed up in December, with another 1,500 or so in both January and February.
“So the pace is picking up and we’re pleased about that,” said Susan Johnson, northwest regional director of the U.S. health department.
Actually, that’s a parabola, not an increase in the pace. Not surprisingly, the demand peaked in December, when nearly half of all sign-ups occurred. That may be due more to those who lost their existing insurance plans scrambling to replace them than enthusiasm for the new program. The numbers from January and February show significant declines in the “pace,” not increases, as the chart highlighted by Salena demonstrate:
— SalenaZito (@SalenaZito) March 19, 2014
That pattern is what we have seen on a national basis, too. The demand in December came as old plans would expire, but the extended enrollment period doesn’t seem to be doing much more than churning downward. ObamaCare supporters expecting a big surge in enrollments this month will probably be disappointed; those who don’t want insurance aren’t going to buy it, and those who do probably already have.
The HHS figures on age demographics for sign-ups look bad in that graphic, too. The majority (53%) of them are between 45 and 64 years of age. Only 32% are under 35, which means that the risk pools will be more distorted than insurers wanted for premium adjustments. This is one reason why those premiums will double in 2015 in some areas, and that will keep more younger consumers away from the marketplaces entirely.
Even for those who do sign up, the tax season will get brutal, John McKinnon writes at the Wall Street Journal:
Headaches over the health-care overhaul are likely to grow in the coming year as tens of millions of Americans face the task of establishing that they have insurance coverage to avoid paying penalties, tax experts say.
“We believe it’s going to create massive confusion,” said Mark Ciaramitaro, vice president of health-care enrollment services for H&R Block. “There’s so much now that confuses people. We think it gets much worse next tax season.”
Perhaps the biggest problem is a lack of public understanding of the complex and frequently-changing program, tax experts say. They expect that to be compounded by a misunderstanding of the penalties, as many don’t realize they could pay more than the minimum $95 for not having insurance. …
But the potential for confusion about the law is feeding speculation among some tax experts that the administration might end up waiving the individual-mandate penalty for 2014, or minimizing its impact by granting widespread exemptions.
What a well-planned system this has turned out to be, eh?