Obamacare “starting to look pretty healthy”? Don’t count on it

Faced with the disastrous debut of healthcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act’s termination of millions of existing insurance policies, the Obama Administration has launched a two-pronged propaganda campaign to disguise the failure of Obamacare as a “success.”

First, Kevin Drum, quoting from The Washington Post at MotherJones.com, tells us that Obamacare enrollment is “starting to look pretty healthy“:

What seemed impossible in October suddenly became a lot more plausible in late December. This weekend, new enrollment data showed approximately 2 million Americans signed up for private health insurance plans since the start of open enrollment. Health policy experts now see a space to get to 7 million — although it’s by no means a guarantee.

… “It was a very impressive December,” says Dan Mendelson, president of health research firm Avalere Health. “The fact that they have about 2 million enrolled is not that far off from [the original CBO projection of] 3.3 million.”

But don’t get excited just yet, because the second battlefront in the new propaganda blitz involves that “7 million” number which, you know, never really meant anything anyway:

“That was never our target number,” White House health care adviser Phil Schiliro told MSNBC. He said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has cited the figure because it had come from the Congressional Budget Office — Congress’ nonpartisan budget scorekeeper — “and it had become an accepted number.”

So … Obamacare will be a success because we are well on our way to meeting a goal that was never really a goal in the first place.  Um, yeah.

Let’s take a closer look at the original enrollment goals.  Out of a potential market consisting of approximately 40 million uninsured, and approximately 15.4 million insured through individual policies, HHS told us that it expected to sell 7 million new Exchange policies between October 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014.  And 2.7 million of those policies would to be sold to healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 35.  These numbers were far from arbitrary; they were calculated by the CBO.  Undoubtedly they were based on sales figures that were agreed upon by White House officials and major insurance companies, which were then used by those companies as a basis for their 2014 premiums.

Further, these sales goals formed the basis for the marketing plan developed by the White House and HHS that was designed to target those uninsured, healthy 18 – 35 year olds as prime customers for the new ACA Exchange insurance plans.  These goals are not just a “target” – they are the critical mass necessary to ensure the actuarial soundness of health insurance premiums for 2014.

As of the end of December, we have 1.1 million signups for ACA plans through the Federal exchange (healthcare.gov) and 850,000 signups through the various state exchanges.  However, these are only people who have registered with the site and chosen a plan to potentially purchase.  The back-end data system responsible for connecting insurance companies with the Federal exchange still – as far as we know – is not fully functional.  Neither is the payment processing system.  The government has not provided any verification that the entire system is actually up and running.

In traditional insurance terminology, someone is enrolled only after their application has been processed and approved, and they have handed the insurance company a check for their first premium.  Even though the government loosely uses the phrase “enrollment, ” we have no way of knowing how many people have actually enrolled in the traditional sense, since the government has not provided that information either.

So we’ve got lots of “signups” (though not as many as we really needed by now) yet no way to know how many are actually enrolled.  Remember that 7 million number?  That was for enrollment, not “signups.”

We also have no way of knowing how many of these signups are part of that super-critical healthy 18 – 35 year old demographic, because the government hasn’t told us that either.  Remember, if the majority of people signing up for ACA policies are doing so because they have health problems and need a financial cushion against out of pocket health expenses, then the health insurance companies will actually be worse off, since these new insureds will be spending more of the insurance companies’ money than they will be paying in through premiums.

Despite the surge of signups in December (most likely because of the enrollment cutoff date for coverage starting January 1) we are probably still a long way, perhaps impossibly long, from expected enrollment numbers.  As Avik Roy explains in the above-linked Forbes article, “It’s almost certain that, so far, this enrollment data is not encouraging. Because if it was encouraging, CMS would have released it.”

In order to make that 7 million enrollment figure, we would need to have 90% or more of the current signups become paying enrollees, and then we would need to add 5 million more paying enrollees during the next 90 days.  Remember, this is the number most likely to represent the enrollment targets that insurers used as a basis for their 2014 rates.  Barely 60 days after the March 31 deadline, insurers will begin submitting their proposed 2015 insurance rates to state insurance regulators for approval, to ensure that open enrollments can start again on October 1.  If insurers take a bath in 2014 due to low enrollment/premium revenue, the sticker shock of necessary 2015 rate increases might drive enrollments even lower.

But then again, maybe “affordable health care” was “never a target” for the Obama Administration.

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Posted by on January 2, 2014.
Filed under Categories, Health Care, Obamacare.
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  • Retired military

    “In order to make that 7 million enrollment figure, …. on October 1″
    Yep When pigs fly.

    • TheMelancholicAlcoholic

      on March 31st, but you’re denying reality anyway, so …….. make sure to put that video of your flying kid, er, pig. (what’s the diff?)

      • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

        Someone here is certainly in denial, and you sir are wet to the hips and gazing upon the Pyramids of Giza.

  • Walter_Cronanty

    I’ve finally figured out how Obamacare will be successful.

    Number of Americans whose policies were cancelled by Obamacare = 4 million plus. http://news.yahoo.com/health-care-law-numbers-194807375.html
    Number of Americans who have “enrolled” in Obamacare = 2 million [wink, wink, nudge, nudge].
    Thus, Obamacare has kicked 2 million plus more Americans off of health insurance than it has “enrolled.” This means, at least according to the MSM, that Obamacare is “healthy.”
    If Obamacare gets anymore “healthy” our healthcare system will collapse. Then, Obamacare will be successful.

  • http://www.traveLightgame.com/ ljcarolyne

    • TheMelancholicAlcoholic

      You at foKKKs are sooooooooo the problem, with your fear mongering and outright lying.

      Yet another failed misinformation campaign. I shudder to think what would have happened if you people were actually competent.

      • jim_m

        Wow, it took the new lefty troll all of 3 comments before he called everyone here a racist. I’d like to say that this is a record, but sadly it is not. I wonder what would happen if a lefty couldn’t make BS accusations of racism. I suppose they wouldn’t have anything to say at all.

        And that doesn’t even get to the point that your avatar is an immediate Godwin violation.

      • jim_m

        Wow, it took the new lefty troll all of 3 comments before he called everyone here a racist. I’d like to say that this is a record, but sadly it is not. I wonder what would happen if a lefty couldn’t make BS accusations of racism. I suppose they wouldn’t have anything to say at all.

        And that doesn’t even get to the point that your avatar is an immediate Godwin violation.

      • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

        You sirah are a blatant racist.

      • Unionuaw

        Obamacare sucks. We scoured over it at all of our local meetings, it is nothing but a headache. Not 1 person in my local wanted it, this is a group of thousands who all are democrat..

      • Unionuaw

        Obamacare sucks. We scoured over it at all of our local meetings, it is nothing but a headache. Not 1 person in my local wanted it, this is a group of thousands who all are democrat..

  • Lawrence Westlake

    All true and germane points (plus the fact that many of the new enrollees are the same people who already lost their coverages because of Obamacare), but don’t underestimate the Idiocracy factor. A lot of the human drones who’ll be voting in ’14 and especially in ’16 not only get their news from the media they actually believe what they see and hear from the media, or they vote by tribal loyalty rather than by facts or logic. There’s also the non-voting conservative malcontent problem, the latter of which is as intractable as the former.

    • TheMelancholicAlcoholic

      Wait, now I am confused. If ACA made them LOSE their coverage, how can the ACA make them get it back?

      Which is it?

  • Walter_Cronanty

    Way late on this thread, but California’s attempt at Obamacare is not looking to “healthy”:

    Amid deepening consumer frustration, California’s health exchange extended the payment deadline to Jan. 15 for insurance coverage starting Jan. 1 under the federal healthcare law.

    The state’s move late Saturday comes as many enrollees continue to report problems getting an invoice from their insurance company or paying their first month’s premium so coverage is retroactive to Jan. 1.

    Consumers say they have encountered website glitches trying to pay online and jammed phone lines when attempting to get help from their insurer or the Covered California exchange.

    A last-minute surge of applicants wanting policies that started Jan. 1 has created bottlenecks and delays at government-run exchanges and insurers nationwide trying to implement the Affordable Care Act.

    http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-kaiser-insurance-deadline-extension-20140104,0,5756642.story#ixzz2pXONSdnH

  • TheMelancholicAlcoholic

    You are completely wrong. You;’re forgetting the 3.1 million people already receiving Medicaid because of the ACA.
    And the 4.5 mill kids who stayed on their parents plan. Plus 2.2 million enrollees.

    That’s 10 million profiting from ObamaCare.
    So, stop lying!
    (I know you can’t, but I’m a Christian, I hope.)

    • jim_m

      People receiving medicaid and children on their parent’s plans didn’t need obamacare. If you were really a Christian you would think better of other people, but you aren’t so you don’t.

      • TheMelancholicAlcoholic

        Christians are allowed to call out liars and hypocrites. Jesus did that, I’m following his example.

    • jim_m

      People receiving medicaid and children on their parent’s plans didn’t need obamacare. If you were really a Christian you would think better of other people, but you aren’t so you don’t.