CBO: 2016 ObamaCare enrollment to fall short of projections by ... 8 million

Get ready to have expectations for ObamaCare managed downward … again. The Congressional Budget Office issued a new estimate for the next decade under the Affordable Care Act that lowers the enrollment projection by 40% in 2016. In fact, according to the CBO, next year’s enrollment is now expected to barely grow at all from 2015:

ObamaCare will enroll significantly fewer people than expected in 2016, ending the year with about 13 million customers, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Monday.

The figure, which was included in an expansive budget report, is a decline of about 40 percent from last year’s enrollment prediction of about 20 million people.

The latest projections confirm the Obama administration’s previous assessment that fewer people are signing up as the marketplace closes in on its third enrollment season — the final one under President Obama.

The CBO offers this projection on page 21 of its analysis:

Similarly, subsidies that help people who meet income and other eligibility criteria to purchase health insurance through exchanges and to meet their cost-sharing requirements, along with related spending, are expected to increase by $18 billion in 2016, reaching a total of $56 billion. The higher spending reflects an anticipated increase in the number of people expected to receive subsidies for coverage purchased through exchanges. CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that about 11 million people will receive exchange subsidies, on average, during calendar year 2016, compared with an average of 8 million in 2015. Additionally, the agencies project that about 2 million other people will purchase coverage through an exchange but will not be eligible for subsidies—for a total of 13 million people, on average, enrolled in policies purchased through exchanges.

It’s not until readers turn to page 69 — and read a footnote — that the disparity between previous projections and their new predictions become apparent:

Previously, CBO and JCT projected that an average of about 15 million people per month would receive exchange subsidies in 2016 and that an additional 6 million people would purchase unsubsidized coverage through an exchange, bringing the total number of people enrolled in coverage purchased through exchanges in any given month to 21 million, on average. Most of the unsubsidized people who are no longer expected to purchase insurance through an exchange are expected to purchase insurance directly from an insurer instead.

Will they? Or will they just purchase insurance when they actually need it and exploit the must-issue mandate on insurers?

Defenders of ObamaCare argue that the program has still succeeded in lowering number of uninsured Americans. However, millions of people got their previous coverage canceled, forcing them into the exchanges, so a significant percentage of the 13 million represent a reshuffled status quo rather than an improvement. Furthermore, Democrats pushed for this policy by arguing that having 40 million or more uninsured Americans constituted a crisis that required overhauling a market that covered 88% of Americans in 2007. Having forced six-to-ten million of those Americans to buy needlessly expensive and inefficient coverage isn’t success — it demonstrates that the solution applied to that problem has failed, all while causing enormous damage to the market it “reformed.”

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023