Obamacare enrollment comes in well below expectations

posted at 6:01 pm on February 3, 2017 by John Sexton

Partial numbers for the recent Obamacare open-enrollment period were announced today and they show the program will come in well below an HHS estimate made late last year. From CNN Money:

Some 9.2 million consumers selected a plan on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, which handles enrollment for 39 states. The final figure, which will include data from the District of Columbia and 11 states that run their own exchanges, won’t be available until March.

Only 376,000 people signed up in the last two weeks of enrollment, compared to nearly 700,000 who picked plans in the final week a year ago.

Last year the CBO predicted 15 million people would sign up in 2017. In October, Obama’s HHS announced a lower target of 13.8 million sign ups. Those numbers were for the entire country while the numbers released today only cover 39 states. But over at ACAsignups, Charles Gaba has put together an estimate of what today’s announcement would need to look like for total enrollment to meet the HHS goal of 13.8 million:

Last year the federal exchange included around 76% of the total enrollments (around 9.6 million). This year, HC.gov added Kentucky, which should have bumped the ratio up to around 77% this year. Assuming 13.8 million total, that would mean roughly 10.6 million enrolling via the federal exchange.

So to meet the HHS goal you’d need about 10.6 million on the federal exchange and the actual number announced today was 9.2 million. Gaba predicts the final national tally will be in the range of 12.3 to 12.4 million. If that holds true, it will be below last year’s final tally. Even if that’s low by a couple hundred thousand, we’re still talking about enrollment staying even with last year which means it will come in over a million people below the HHS projection.

Trump pulled some ad money in the final weeks (about $5 million) so he is being blamed for the decline of roughly 250,000 signs ups compared to the same time last year. But again, even assuming that’s correct, the best case scenario probably would have been parity with last year, about 9.6 million. Getting to the 10.6 million needed to reach the HHS prediction/goal does not seem to have been in the cards.

Finally, a reminder that there is always a drop off between the number of people who sign up and the number who actually maintain their insurance throughout the year. So expect the actual number of people enrolled by the end of this year to be 10-15% below whatever finally tally is announced next month.


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