Report: 29,000 sign-ups on in first two days of December

A big improvement over October, when there were fewer than 27,000 in the entire month. But are these actual enrollments or the wink-wink “enrollments” that HHS has been using to bloat its numbers?

Inquiring insurance-industry minds would like to know.

The site has held up under pressure from about 1 million visitors for two days straight, giving some early tailwinds to the Obama administration’s effort to reboot the conversation on its website and Obamacare as a whole…

Despite the apparent turnaround of the consumer experience on the federal website, enrolling on is not the same as people actually being covered by insurance policies. For the latter to happen, must tell insurers who has signed up, and the consumers must pay their first premium

“The back-end issues remain not resolved, and consumers’ coverage will be disrupted,” Mark Pratt, a senior vice president with America’s Health Insurance Plans, told the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting.

You can parse those numbers different ways depending upon whether your agenda is glass half-empty or half-full. Half-full: The daily sign-up rate in December so far is more than four times what it was in November. If they stay on track with roughly 15,000 new quasi-enrollees each day, they’ll tally nearly 350,000 before the 12/23 deadline. That ought to slow Democratic heartbeats on the Hill, at least over the holidays. Even better for ObamaCare fans, the sign-up rate might increase further before Christmas. Remember, the number of people who used to have insurance and have been canceled this year due to the O-Care rollout numbers in the millions. The closer we get to December 23rd, the more panicked they’ll be that they won’t have coverage on January 1st. There’s bound to be a last-minute spike. Bill Clinton reassured Democrats yesterday that “if the computer problems are all fixed, and it’s up and running by — and healthy in the next several weeks, I think that the damage will be minimal.” That’s … not remotely true, but robust enrollment data this month will keep people in the party believing it for awhile.

Half-empty: Even if there’s a last-minute spike, some significant portion of those people won’t sign up in time, whether for reasons of procrastination, absent-mindedness, or hair-tearing difficulty with the farking website. There’ll be illnesses and accidents among that population in early January and no one to help cover the cost. As for the enrollment (or “enrollment”) rate, 350,000 a month would be a major upgrade over October but it’s still far short of HHS’s pre-launch target for the website’s first three months. They wanted 3.3 million signed up by December 31st between the federal and various state exchanges. As of December 1st, had generated 125,000 or so sign-ups and the states had added roughly 80,000 in October with November’s data still to come. Assume that 250,000 people enrolled on the state exchanges last month, and that this month both and the state websites will combine for another one million sign-ups (a high bar given their track records). That would leave HHS at … 44 percent of its target on December 31st, even after the big December crunch. And all of this assumes, of course, that each sign-up is decipherable, non-duplicative, and paid up before the deadline even though we know for a fact, per the testimony of insurance execs, that that won’t be the case. Even the website traffic data that HHS is touting is underwhelming upon reflection. A million visitors a day is nice, but (a) there won’t be a big splashy re-launch and accompanying presidential speech every day in December to hold the public’s interest, and (b) those one million visits produced only 15,000 or so enrollments, a success rate of just 1.5 percent. What should we conclude from the fact that more than 98 percent of people who surf over to surf away without having signed up?

I’ll leave you with this from New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot, who was grumpy about her expensive new ObamaCare “comprehensive” plan until she remembered her “values”:

To be clear: I’m not happy to be paying more in the short term, and it may be a struggle at times. I wish other self-employed people didn’t have to shoulder so much of the burden. I wish we had a single-payer system, but that seems wildly unrealistic. And the new health-care law exists for the common good, not just the individual consumer. Vaccination provides more effective protection—so-called herd immunity—when more of us are vaccinated. Universal health insurance works in something like the same way: we are better off as a society—more compassionate, but also healthier—when we can all get the care we need.

So yes, I’ll subsidize someone else’s prenatal coverage, in a more effective way than I’ve been doing by default under the current system, in which too many pregnant women show up in emergency rooms without having had such care, creating problems for themselves and their babies, and all sorts of costs for taxpayers. And I’ll remember to be relieved that my own access to health care is guaranteed. But they had better work out the problems with the A.C.A.; if they don’t, and it doesn’t fulfill its promise of insuring the uninsured, I’m really going to feel like a chump.