Yikes: ObamaCare signups slowed down in February

That the 7 million people the Obama administration once hopefully projected would enroll in ObamaCare before the end of the open enrollment period on March 31st, haven’t, was to be expected; after all, they did rather tremendously screw up the rollout of their flagship website, but once they patched the federal exchange up a little (and that’s to say nothing of several individual states’ exchange calamities), signups started trickling in more smoothly. If the Obama administration was really hoping that a better-functioning website and their various PR efforts would help to spread national enthusiasm and set off a late enrollment “surge,” however… things aren’t looking too great so far. The administration just released a report on February’s ObamaCare signups, coming in at 942,000+ — a significant deceleration from January, and a lot less than their February prediction of 1.3 million. Philip Klein breaks it down:

Weeks before the health care law’s exchanges launched Oct. 1, an HHS memo projected that 5.7 million individuals would enroll in a plan through one of Obamacare’s exchanges by the end of February. In reality, HHS said Tuesday, just 4.2 million Americans had signed up in the first five months.

HHS still hasn’t disclosed how many Americans who have signed up for a plan through the website have consistently paid their premiums, which is how enrollment is typically measured. Thus, HHS figures could overstate enrollment by around 20 percent to 25 percent. …

In January, 1,146,071 individuals signed up for insurance on the exchanges, according to HHS. In February, that number declined to 942,800.

That ever-present caveat — that “selecting a plan” and “actually purchasing said plan” are not necessarily one and the same thing — means that enrollment could really be somewhere in the three-to-four million range. If the pace of March’s signups don’t pick up a lot, that could be bad news for the president’s crowning legislative achievement (or, perhaps I should say, bad news for the taxpayer dollars that will then be used to bail out the president’s crowning legislative achievement, for the increasingly expensive healthcare plans consumers will have to buy, and for the overall hot mess that the administration has managed to make of the entire insurance industry and economy at large).

The even worse news, as ever, is that the proper mix of young people evidently remain oh-so-stubbornly disinterested in following the administration’s desperate recommendations that they sign up for ObamaCare. The White House was originally hoping that 40 percent of those hoped-for 7 million enrollees would be those relatively low-risk, low-cost young people to help keep prices down, but so far, it’s not even close.

Figure 1 and Table 1 show that, consistent with expectations, the proportion of young adults (ages 18 to 34) who have selected a Marketplace plan through the SBMs and FFM has remained strong. Young adults continued to account for 27 percent of the Marketplace plan selections during the fifth month, which was consistent with their share of plan selections during the fourth month (27 percent) and 3 percentage points higher than their share of plan selections during the first three months (24 percent). Meanwhile, the proportion of older adults (ages 35 and over) selecting a Marketplace plan has continued to decrease (from 70 percent during the first three months to 67 percent during the fifth month).

The law’s supporters are banking on young people being procrastinators and waiting until the tail end of the enrollment period, and no doubt some of them will — but the January-to-February ratios didn’t budge, and those ratios only barely budged from December. Hence… this.