So that’s why they decided to extend the enrollment deadline past March 31st for people who are already “waiting in line” or whatever. Megan McArdle was wondering about that yesterday: Why, having hit five million enrollments just 10 days ago and with the website working reasonably well, would the White House suddenly feel obliged to give people even more time? What do they gain from it? I think this is the answer. They’re now within striking distance of hitting their original target of seven million for the first year, averaging fully 100,000 new sign-ups per day over the last 10 days as the deadline approaches. (They’re at 1.8 million for this month alone.) That number is meaningless on its own terms but it’s a juicy talking point for Senate Democrats who are desperate for good news about the law to mention when they’re challenged on it by voters. “We promised you seven million and we made it. The law’s a success. America loves ObamaCare.”
As this historic open enrollment period enters its final days, more than 6 million Americans have signed up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces since October 1, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Those looking to get covered before the March 31st deadline still have time by visiting HealthCare.gov or by phone at 1-800-318-2596/TTY 1-855-889-4325. You can also find help in your community at localhelp.healthcare.gov…
A nonprofit worker from New Jersey, a theater artist from Chicago, IL, and an opera singer from Austin, TX are all among the millions of Americans now enjoying the peace of mind and security that comes with quality, affordable health coverage. You can find their stories and more here on HHS.gov.
Consumers like these are coming in near record numbers to check out their options for affordable health coverage at HealthCare.gov or seeking help from a trained assister in person or via our 24/7 call center. We are seeing near record numbers of consumers coming to check out their options and enroll in coverage. Yesterday alone, we had 1.5 million visits to HealthCare.gov and took more than 430,000 calls at our 24/7 call center.
Sebelius pops the social-media champagne:
— Kathleen Sebelius (@SecSebelius) March 27, 2014
Meanwhile, back in reality, not even reliably lefty outfits like HuffPo can paper over the problems with how HHS is counting “sign-ups”:
The number does not distinguish between individuals who have chosen a health care plan and have paid their first month’s premium, and those who have not — which has been estimated to be around 20 percent of those who have signed up.
The numbers also don’t include individuals who have enrolled in Medicaid, which was expanded in many states to individuals who earn up to 133 percent of the poverty level. They also don’t count those who have purchased insurance directly from a private insurance company but will be included in the overall risk pool.
Right. They also don’t specify how many of these six million were uninsured before and how many are simply replacing coverage that ObamaCare forced their old insurer to cancel. Nor do they specify the crucially important demographic mix of enrollees. How many of the six million are “young invincibles” and how many have preexisting conditions? McArdle’s theory yesterday about why HHS extended the deadline for a few more weeks is that they know they don’t have enough young adults to keep premiums as low as they want them to be and so they’re holding the door open in hopes of squeezing a few more through. That’s also why the White House is now posting ObamaCare-related GIFs on, er, BuzzFeed.
Likewise, as far as I know, the new numbers do include people who’ve placed a plan in their virtual shopping cart on Healthcare.gov but who haven’t pulled the trigger and actually purchased it. That policy dates back to last year, when the White House was desperate for good news about enrollments so they decided to treat “sign-ups” as people who’ve reached merely the next to last stage of the purchase process. All of which means that not only might this large risk pool nonetheless be toxically skewed towards people in comparatively poor health, but the numbers that HHS is handing out here almost certainly overstate the actual number of enrollees by hundreds of thousands (or even a million or more) people. Show of hands: If all of the withheld data was actually good news for the White House — a healthy risk pool, 99+ percent payment, few bogus “shopping cart” sign-ups — who thinks Sebelius wouldn’t be extremely eager to let you know that?
Jay Carney’s going to spend his afternoon sneering at the law’s critics. I suggest you use your time to read this Bob Laszewski post about the very real risk of double-digit premium hikes to many exchange plans next year, which will mean night-night for ObamaCare.
Update: Yep, this would count under the “shopping cart” policy:
— John Ekdahl (@JohnEkdahl) March 27, 2014