Report: 100,000 people selected a plan on in November

By “selected a plan,” do they mean people who’ve completed enrollment or people at some lesser step in the process, like placing a plan in their virtual shopping cart without proceeding to checkout? Remember, you’re not officially enrolled until you’ve paid your first month of premiums. Could be that some people have chosen a plan but then gotten rate-shock jitters and decided not to pull the trigger until they’ve scraped together enough dough to cover the cost. Or, worse, it could be that some think they’re covered now that they’ve completed the sign-up process and somehow missed the fine print about that first-month payment. Hmmmm:

Anyway, good news and bad news for the White House here.

About 100,000 people signed up for health insurance through the online federal exchange last month, a roughly four-fold increase from October even as a team of U.S. government and contractor programmers was fixing the troubled Affordable Care Act website, said a person familiar with program’s progress.

The preliminary November numbers reflect individuals who successfully selected a plan. The administration expects that most consumers will sign up early next year as the enrollment period nears its March 31 close, said the person who asked for anonymity because the final numbers were still being calculated.

The obvious good news for O: Enrollments — er, I mean “plan selections” — on more than tripled from October’s number of 26,794 to November. Then again, given that the site was largely inoperative in October, that was an easy bar to clear. The less obvious good news: According to the NYT, 50,000 people had enrolled/selected a plan on the federal website by mid-November. Subtract the 27,000 or so from October and that means 23,000 signed up in the first two weeks last month. Assuming Bloomberg’s figures in the excerpt above are correct, another 75,000 signed up in just the last two or three weeks alone, a big increase. Maybe that’s proof of the website becoming more stable, maybe it’s proof of demand increasing as we approach the December 23rd deadline for coverage, maybe it’s both.

The bad news: The target for total enrollments through November was … 800,000. The federal website, which covers nearly three-quarters of the states, has produced just 125,000 “enrollments,” not all of which are actual enrollments, so far. They’re going to miss the bullseye, probably badly. That all depends on the state exchanges now, though, and those include hugely populous states like California and New York. In October, the state exchanges generated roughly three times the number of enrollments than the federal exchange. If that trend repeats, it would mean 300,000 state enrollments in November; add that to the federal numbers and the October state numbers and you’ve got something in the vicinity of 500,000 sign-ups total. Still way, way, way off the 800,000 mark they laid down, but if being “in the zone of about 80 percent” usability for the website is enough for the White House to declare its “tech surge” a success, hitting 60-65 percent of its target enrollment is probably enough for Sebelius to declare the process “on track,” kinda sorta.

Two things to bear in mind going forward. One: As the enrollment numbers inevitably swell (they’re bound to, thanks to the coercion of the mandate), lefties will forget Ezra Klein’s advice from last week not to focus on the number of sign-ups but rather the demographic mix. ObamaCare can survive falling short of its numerical target; it can’t survive a risk pool that’s badly skewed towards sicker people. The early state data was … not encouraging for O-Care fans on that point, but everyone expected early enrollees to skew towards the sick. We’ll see how the trends shifted in November, if they did at all. Two: Amid all the government hoopla today about working better, remember that the feds still consider the site to be so fragile that they asked liberal groups not to launch a big PR campaign encouraging people to sign up. A last-minute PR push is the only thing that might get the feds to their year-end goal for enrollments. The fact that they’re standing down anyway, knowing that it’ll mean a round of “ObamaCare off-track” news stories in January, tells you a lot about how far the website still has to go.

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