CBO cuts Obamacare enrollment projection

posted at 8:41 pm on March 24, 2016 by John Sexton

The congressional budget office has revised its Obamacare enrollment target for 2016 downward by a million people. This is the second such downgrade the CBO has issued in 2016. The Hill reports:

About 12 million people are now expected to have ObamaCare coverage by the end of 2016, according to the nonpartisan budget office. Just three months ago, the office had predicted that 13 million people would have coverage.

The latest enrollment estimate is an even steeper drop from the CBO’s estimates from 2015, which predicted 21 million people would have marketplace coverage by this time.

The enrollment after the end of the last enrollment period was 12.7 million. At first glance it may sound as if Obamacare is exceeding the CBO’s new, lower expectations. However, as I noted earlier this month, there has been a steep drop off in the number of people who sign up for coverage at the beginning of the year over the months that follow. In 2015 that drop off was a full 25 percent.

If the enrollment numbers see a similar drops off in 2016 (25%) then the enrollment at the end of this year will be around 9.5 million. That’s well below the revised CBO estimate and even falls below the dramatically lowered HHS estimate of 10 million.

The latest CBO report offers a couple of reasons for the revised estimate. The first, which might be viewed as a good thing by opponents of the law, is that the number of people who have been dropped from employer-based coverage has been lower than expected. That number is still expected to ramp up by 2026 however. The other factor behind the lowered estimate is enrollment among those who receive no subsidies:

CBO and JCT have also revised downward their projection of unsubsidized enrollment in nongroup coverage through health insurance marketplaces because such enrollment
has been smaller than they anticipated in the first two years that the marketplaces have been in operation.

In other words, CBO lowered the estimate because people who don’t get a subsidy just are not buying Obamacare coverage. Unfortunately, it’s those people who were expected to offset the costs of subsidizing everyone else.


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