Every Friday I’m posting the latest enrollment figures for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) here at Eclectablog. Full details can be viewed daily at ACASignups.net.
After the massive spike in enrollments seen in mid- to late December, regular site visitors might be a bit disappointed at the relative dearth of increases since New Year’s. There have actually been quite a few updates, including several impressive percentage increases, but the actual numbers involved have been relatively small compared to the massive jumps seen just a few weeks ago. In short, you’re probably wondering why the total number of private enrollments which shot up to 2.1 million in late December only seems to have gone up about 100,000 more since then.
There are three reasons for this:
First, obviously there was a tremendous sense of urgency for people to enroll in time for January 1st coverage. A drop-off after Christmas has long been expected, although this has been a bit fuzzy as the actual enrollment deadline bounced around, from 12/15 to 12/23, then 12/24 (for most states), then 12/27 or 12/31 for a handful, and finally as late as 01/06/14 for Oregon.
Secondly, I’m sure a lot of people who didn’t absolutely need to enroll for Jan. 1 are in sort of a holding pattern while they wait to see how the exchange-purchased plans work out in real life. There’s a big difference between being told that you’ll have coverage starting on a certain date and actually hitting that date and beyond, as this article out from the L.A. Times demonstrates. In many ways, I suspect this is sort of like the early November Healthcare.gov situation, where people were watching & waiting before dipping their toes onto the website after all the technical issues they had heard about (or experienced) in the chaotic days of October.
However, the third reason is a simple one: I haven’t found any new reliable numbers out of California since 12/23 or New York since 12/30. Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, N. Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia are all run via the Federal Exchange. Since HHS itself hasn’t released the HC.gov data since 11/30, that means the largest-population state that I have data for is #13, Washington…which was updated 3 days ago.
After that, the next-largest state running it’s own exchange is Massachusetts (an utter mess), followed by Maryland..at #19. At this point we’re into states with less than 6 million people each, which means that enrollment increases which are impressive on a state level are only making a small dent in the overall national numbers. In other words, it’s not that the number of enrollments have necessarily dropped off that much, it’s just that the states representing about 85% of the country have been maintaining radio silence for a couple of weeks now.
Now for the good news: New York should be releasing their latest tally at any time. California should be just about done sorting out the deluge of last-minute partially-completed enrollments that they’ve been sorting through for the past 2 weeks. Most of all, the official HHS Dept. report for December should (based on the release dates of the October and November reports) be released sometime today or over the weekend.
The official HHS report should finally answer the question of just how full of beans my own numbers have been over the past crazy month.
Having said all that, today did bring 3 interesting state-level developments:
—The District of Columbia exchange, which up until now had been virtually silent, finally released official numbers, jumping from about 1,100 in mid-November to over 15,000 private enrollments by the end of December. Amusingly, it looks like as many as 10,000 of these were Congressional staffers who the GOP demanded be required to sign up for Obamacare. You know, the very law that they hate with a passion and have voted over 40 times to repeal. Congress is a very strange place to work, I’d imagine.
—Maryland added another 2,093 people to the private exhange rolls from 12/28 – 01/04, a 11% increase. The Medicaid situation is a bit more confusing: Actual enrollments increased from 19,578 to 26,500 (a 35% increase), but the prior week’s tally had it at 43,065. It turns out that about 20,000 or so of the Medicaid applications need to be double-checked for duplicates, so they can’t be counted yet, making it look like a huge drop by comparison. Sorry about that, folks.
–And finally, who would have thought that it would be Idaho, of all states, that would mark the first significant milestone since hitting the 2.1 million mark a around Christmas? The spokeswoman for Your Health Idaho announced that ID has shot up from just 1,730 private enrollments at the end of November to a whopping 20,000 people “in time for January 1st”. Since the final January deadline for Federal exchange states was Christmas Eve, I assume this means that an additional 18,270 people enrolled from 12/01 – 12/24, increasing Idaho’s total 11-fold.
Of course, most of those 18K new people will probably have to be taken out of the HHS’s non-specific “1 million” enrollments which haven’t been officially broken out by state, but even after doing so, the total number of private enrollments now still sits at just over the 2.2 million mark.
At the same time, since Idaho’s CBO projection for 3/31/14 was only 40,000 people to begin with, this means that just like that, they’ve jumped up to 50% of their target.