The Obama administration was originally hoping for about half a million total enrollments in the ObamaCare system in the month following its debut (although they have subsequently tried to pretend that they most certainly never even set enrollment targets, thank you very much), and the most topical numbers might suggest to the untrained eye that things are going OK. As the Associated Press detailed over the weekend, however, the numbers that the White House deigned to provide to them — 19 million website visitors and half a million successful applications — do not a half a million enrollments make:
Administration officials say about 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges, the most detailed measure yet of the problem-plagued rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
However, the officials continue to refuse to say how many people have actually enrolled in the insurance markets. Without enrollment figures, it’s unclear whether the program is on track to reach the 7 million people projecting by the Congressional Budget Office to gain coverage during the six-month sign-up period. …
Interest in the insurance markets appears to continue to be high. Officials said about 19 million people had visited HealthCare.gov as of Friday night. …
Of the 476,000 applications that have been started, just over half have been from the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead in running the markets. The rest of the applications have come from the 14 states running their own markets, along with Washington, D.C.
So, almost half a million people have managed to apply, but once they can [attempt to] shop for the insurance plans for which they’re qualified (maybe? As Ed informed us this morning, that’s a whole other glitchy story), will they actually make the leap and buy them? Once again, the young people especially that they need to sign up to financially undergird the system might be deterred by the higher costs they’re likely to pay in all but a handful of states, and that uncomfortable fact along with the rash of technical glitches means that the White House is sweating. A lot.
Julie Pace, the AP journalist on the story above, explained on Fox News Sunday:
The administration and the White House in particular is very worried about this. They have spent a lot of time, a lot of money on this program, and you can’t say that this rollout has been anything short of embarrassing for the president. He’s going to come out on Monday. He’s going to address these problems. It’s the first time we’ll really have seen him do that… So, the applications, you have to fill out an application first when you get out to this Web site before you can actually enroll. This is where you enter your personal data, you also enter income information that helps the government figure out what kind of subsidy you could apply for — you could be qualified for. So, it’s important to know this number, but this number doesn’t tell us how many people are actually going to enroll? … So, we don’t know if all these people who have applied are going to eventually enroll. That’s going to be the big number.
And as she further elaborated on MSNBC on Monday morning, the idea that the administration knows how many visitors and applications they have had, but somehow doesn’t have the numbers of the actual enrollments in their possession, is a little more than a lame smokescreen:
This is a question that comes up literally every single day at the White House. In the daily briefing, it comes up in other conversations that I have with administration officials every day. And every day they tell us, we don’t have that number yet. We’re going to provide the first enrollee number in mid-November. And, really what they’re trying to do at this point is, they’re being selectively transparent. They’re telling us numbers that make the system look good. They say that 19 million people have looked at HealthCare.gov since the site opened up to the public. They say that about a half million people will have actually gotten through the application process, that’s about as detailed as we’ve gotten at this point. But, you know, the enrollment figures, they say, ‘Oh, reporters, you’re just obsessed with this enrollment figure.’ Well, that’s because the enrollment figure is the only thing that tells us whether it’s actually going to work.