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Obamacare Enrollment Numbers

Obamacare Enrollment Numbers from the Exchanges

11/13/2011

The Obama Administration has released enrollment numbers today for all of the health exchanges. About 27 million visitors have attempted to get on the state and federal exchanges. About 27,000 have actually been able to purchase insurance through Obamacare’s health exchanges.

Below this paragraph are several news articles I have included that go over the details of the enrollment data. I want to stress to all of you that you do not need to buy from the exchange if you are not eligible for a subsidy or if your subsidy is going to be small. For you, you will get better rates, plans, and networks shopped outside of the exchange. Even better, these plans will be bought through agents or online at websites such as ours (www.portlandbenefitsgroup.com). If you buy your insurance that way you will not have to give tax information like you would with the exchanges.

In California, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Pennysylvania, and Virginia you can still buy a medically underwritten plan with rates that can be grandfathered until 2015 from Assurant Health. Buying your insurance now will reduce your rate next year by 2/3. Standard and Preferred rates can be applied for until December 15th.

-Dave Taxer
503-828-1970

White House releases enrollment numbers

Fewer than 27,000 sign up for plrivate through HealthCare.org

About 27,000 people have managed to sign up for private health insurance through HealthCare.gov one month into enrollment.

HealthCare.gov has processed applications for a total of 210,190 people, including 183,396 who will be eligible for Medicaid or other government programs and 26,794 who are on track to enroll in private “qualified health plan” coverage.

Overall, Americans filed a total of 846,184 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchange coverage applications. The applications include requests for coverage for a total of 1.5 million people.

HHS notes that the processed application figures include expected enrollees who haven’t yet made their first premium payment.

At the state-based exchanges, applicants have picked QHP plans for 79,391 individual people. The state-based exchanges have found 212,865 people to be eligible for Medicaid or other government plan coverage.

At the federal exchanges, about 13 percent of the enrollees seem to be likely to enroll in QHP coverage.

The overall exchange application totals include applications for 975,407 people who have been found to be eligible for coverage by have not yet selected a plan.

Obamacare: Critics seize on low enrollment numbers

Just 106,000 Americans successfully signed up in October for health coverage through President Obama’s healthcare law, the administration announced Wednesday in a report that underscored damage from the botched launch of the law and gave critics new fuel in their effort to roll it back.

The tally falls well short of administration hopes that as many as 500,000 people would select a health plan in the first month of enrollment.

Enrollment has been particularly weak in the 36 states whose new insurance marketplaces are being run by the federal government.

Fewer than 27,000 consumers signed up for coverage on a federally run marketplace. These federal marketplaces rely on the malfunctioning healthcare.gov website, which Obama administration officials are scrambling to repair.

“More people in Michigan have had their healthcare plans canceled than have enrolled nationwide,” said a statement from U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). He warned the early numbers could foretell “a fundamental breakdown of the insurance market.”

Immediately after the numbers were released, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) renewed his call for legislation that would change the law to prevent Americans from losing access to the healthcare plans they currently have. Obama has been looking for ways to make such changes without involving Congress, where Republicans are looking for any opportunity to repeal the entire law.

“This report is a symbol of the failure of the president’s healthcare law,” Boehner said in a statement. “It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped.”

Enrollment was stronger in several states that are running their own marketplaces, including California, which had more than 35,000 enrollees in October, more than double any other state.

Despite the relatively low enrollment numbers, administration officials stressed Wednesday that consumer interest in health insurance appears strong.

Nationwide, nearly 1.1 million people have been deemed eligible to get insurance through one of the new marketplaces, according to applications that have been submitted by consumers, the Department of Health and Human Services reported. An additional 396,000 people have been deemed eligible for the government’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, officials reported.

“The promise of quality, affordable coverage is increasingly becoming reality in this first wave of applicants,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months.”

“There is no doubt the level of interest is strong. We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months, mirroring the pattern that Massachusetts experienced” when it adopted its statewide program for near-universal health coverage. “We also expect that the numbers will grow as the website, healthcare.gov, continues to make steady improvements.”

Health policy experts have also cautioned that enrollment is often slow at the start of a new government program.

For example, two-thirds of enrollees in Medicare Part D drug plans did not sign up for a plan until after coverage began in 2006, according to an analysis by Avalere Health, a Washington, D.C.-based health consulting firm.

The Obama administration hopes to ultimately get about 7 million Americans signed up for health coverage through the state and federal marketplaces, including about 2.7 million who are between the ages of 18 and 34.

Those numbers are viewed as critical to ensuring that the new insurance pools have adequate numbers of healthy consumers to balance the expected influx of sick Americans who are eager to get health coverage.

Consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up for insurance if they want to be covered on Jan. 1.

The open enrollment period under the law runs until March 31, however, giving consumers almost three more months in 2014 to select a plan and not be penalized for lacking health coverage.

The release of the low enrollment figures comes as Democrats on Capitol Hill are becoming increasingly nervous over the political impact of the Obamacare rollout. Polls show President Obama’s job approval dropping to the lowest levels of his presidency. The public’s view of whether Obama can be trusted has taken a particularly serious hit.

Obama has had to apologize for the fact that several million Americans have received notices that existing health plans will be canceled in 2014, despite his promises that everyone who had plans they liked could keep them.one

What will Obamacare enrollment numbers tell us about its health?

They are the numbers we’ve all been waiting for and House Republicans have unsuccessfully tried to get out of the Obama administration.

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services will reveal how many people purchased policies on the federal Obamacare exchange website.

Technical failures have plagued HealthCare.gov since its October 1 launch, although officials say it’s slowly getting better.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says enrollment numbers “will be lower than we hoped and we anticipated.”

Just how low and what effect all of those online roadblocks had on enrollment remain to be seen.

But what will the numbers mean about the health of Obamacare?

Q: How many people need to enroll?

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million people will purchase insurance through an exchange by 2023, but just seven million will enroll during the initial sign-up window ending March 31.

CBO’s estimate includes customers on both state-based and federally run insurance exchanges, but not individuals who enroll in Medicaid.

If that number is spread evenly over the course of the open enrollment period, 1.16 million people would need to purchase insurance each month in order for the administration to be on pace to reach the seven million figure in six months.

But officials both in and out of government are quick to point out that enrollment is unlikely to occur at an even pace.

To make that case, President Barack Obama recently traveled to Massachusetts where then-Gov. Mitt Romney enacted similar health care reforms in 2006.

“Enrollment was extremely slow, within a month only about a hundred people had signed up,” the President told a crowd in Boston in late October, recounting data from the state’s first open-enrollment period. “But then, 2,000 had signed up, and then a few more thousand after that. And by the end of the year, 36,000 people had signed up.”

On CNN the day after the President’s trip, MIT economist Jon Gruber, a former health care adviser to both Romney and Obama, argued that the first month’s numbers aren’t that useful in estimating the pace of enrollment.

“The key deadline here is March 31, that’s when people have to have insurance to avoid the individual mandate,” Gruber said of the deadline for avoiding a financial penalty for not having any health coverage. “That’s still months away.”

A consumer behavior expert said the slow pace of enrollment early could be attributed to buying habits.

Michael McCall, consumer psychology professor at Ithaca College, compared it to paying rent or a mortgage when it’s due, rather than before a bill is received. Until payment is submitted, the door remains open to back out or make changes.

“Once I pay, I’ve kind of made that commitment,” McCall added.

Arguably more important than the overall enrollment number is the diversity of the new customer pool.

The administration is working to ensure that 40% of those on the new exchanges are relatively healthy between 18 and 35.

“Part of the challenge is to make sure that the exchanges are able to attract a broad cross section of people, sick people and healthier young people so that the coverage is affordable,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

An unbalanced insurance pool could cause insurers to increase monthly premiums or pull out of the exchanges altogether in future years.

What about Medicaid enrollees?

Customers whose income falls below a certain threshold are automatically referred to their state’s Medicaid program. The Affordable Care Act offers subsidies to states to increase Medicaid qualification to 138% of the federal poverty level, and 25 states and the District of Columbia have taken up the federal offer so far.

If your state has opted to expand Medicaid, you’ll likely be referred to your state’s welfare agency if you make less than $15,800 and are seeking coverage as an individual, or $32,500 if you’re seeking it for a family of four.

The CBO estimates that nine million people will enroll in Medicaid and its partner initiative for children, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, by 2014. According to this estimate, that number will increase to 13 million by 2023.

 

What if my state didn’t expand Medicaid?

The authors of the ACA intended Medicaid expansion to be mandatory, but a Supreme Court decision in 2010 ruled the federal government couldn’t require expansion of a state-run program. This decision led 25 states to opt out.

If you make less than the federal poverty level, you will be referred to your state Medicaid agency to see if you qualify for benefits under the current law, regardless of whether your state has expanded Medicaid or not.

According to a study by the Kaiser Foundation, only four states that didn’t expand Medicaid offer benefits to parents with incomes up to the federal poverty level, and only Wisconsin offers benefits to adults without children.

If your state chose not to expand its Medicaid program, you can still purchase insurance on the exchange, but you might not qualify for a premium subsidy.

Federal subsidies kick in for those with income above 100% of the federal poverty level.

Due to the Supreme Court decision and the structure of the law, a large group of low-income Americans won’t qualify for Medicaid in their state, but will earn less than the federal poverty level, meaning they won’t qualify for any federal subsidies. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly five million people will fall into this Medicaid coverage gap.

What does “enroll” mean, anyway?

Regardless of whether you’re signing up on HealthCare.gov or one of the state-run exchanges, there are several steps in the enrollment process.

You must first create an account and enter in some personal information, including your Social Security number and an estimate of your annual income.

This information is then verified through the federal data hub with various government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.

Then you’ll either be presented with the plans available in your coverage area and an estimate for what those plans will cost after any federal subsidy is factored in, or you’ll be told you qualify for Medicaid and referred to your state’s Medicaid agency.

If you’re eligible to purchase a plan on the exchange, you can compare the plans available to find one that best fits your budget and coverage needs.

Many insurance companies and state-based exchanges don’t classify customers as officially enrolled until they’ve paid their first premium. Others will count people as enrolled once they’ve selected a plan.

A spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed Tuesday that the numbers the government plans to announce will reveal how many consumers have completed an application and selected a plan, not necessarily how many have paid.

Consumers have until December 15 to pay if they want coverage beginning on January 1, or until March 31 if they simply want to avoid paying the penalty for not having insurance.

According to CNN’s tally, at least 54,700 people have paid for insurance on the state-based exchanges, but many more have made it partially through the process, completing an application and selecting a plan.

Various news outlets have reported that fewer than 50,000 people have signed up and paid for new private insurance plans through the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov. Neither the Department of Health and Human Services nor officials at CMS would confirm those numbers.

Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Fall Far Short Of Target

One month into the rollout of Obamacare, 106,185 people had chosen a private health insurance plan using the health care reform law’s troubled exchanges, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday, the first time the Obama administration has given enrollment figures.

Technical problems besieging HealthCare.gov, the federal online portal for insurance in more than 30 states, and the websites for several state-run marketplaces have hampered sign-up since Oct. 1 and threaten to derail President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. The administration is far from meeting the Congressional Budget Office’s projection of enrolling 7 million people into private insurance and 9 million people into Medicaid by March 31.

The disappointing results of the first phase of Affordable Care Act enrollment underscore the fragility of the new marketplaces and the urgent need for the Obama administration to get HealthCare.gov reliably functioning by the end of this month. The coverage of millions of people whose plans are being eliminated hangs in the balance, as does the prospect of reducing the ranks of the 48 million Americans who have no health insurance.

“With the issues we’ve had, these marketplaces are working and people are enrolling,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “We can reasonably expect that these numbers will grow substantially over the next five months.”

Some 26,794 people who have selected a health plan did so via the federally run insurance exchanges, compared to the more than 79,000 who used the exchanges in the 15 states and the District of Columbia that are operating their own marketplaces, according to the HHS report, which spans the period from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2.

Not all of the more than 100,000 people tallied by the administration have taken the final necessary step and actually made the first payment for their coverage, which begins in January, the report indicates. The Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t have accurate data on how many people made payments to insurers, which aren’t due until Dec. 15, Sebelius said.

An additional 975,407 people have completed the application to determine whether they can receive subsidies and now have only to choose a health plan, the report says. More than 396,000 people using the exchanges have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

The administration continues to plead for patience, emphasizing that the enrollment period doesn’t end for more than four months. “This data represents only a month into a sustained six-month enrollment and outreach effort and we’re confident that, as more people across the country learn about their new options, more people will find a plan that meets their needs and their budget and more will enroll in coverage,” Sebelius said.

The report cites the precedents set by the rollout of the Massachusetts health insurance exchange in 2007 and the launch of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit in 2006. The White House maintains that Obamacare enrollment will surge in December and again near the end of March.

“We’re well ahead of the pace that was set by Massachusetts, so there’s not cause for concern with these particular numbers,” Don Mould, HHS assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, said during the conference call.

Although the Massachusetts health reform program and Medicare Part D also suffered from balky rollouts, the troubles besetting HealthCare.gov and some state exchanges appear more serious. On top of technical glitches, the political firestorm is more intense this time, raising questions about whether the administration can make up for lost time.

The White House is inviting individuals frustrated by their first sign-up attempts to try again, and has vowed to get HealthCare.gov running smoothly by the end of November. That timeline, which is in doubt, would leave just over two weeks for individuals to get health coverage before Dec. 15, the last day to enroll in a health plan or Medicaid in order to be covered on Jan. 1.

“The early experience of HealthCare.gov was enormously frustrating. It is getting better. It’s getting better every day, so I’d urge people to visit the site,” Sebelius said.

The White House sought to get 500,000 people enrolled in private insurance via the federal and state exchanges by the end of October, according to an internal document cited by the Associated Press that the administration has never confirmed. By the end of this month, the target is 800,000 people, including Medicaid enrollees, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told a congressional committee last week.

The administration has always predicted that the early weeks of enrollment on the exchanges would be slow, even before severe technological failures hit HealthCare.gov and exchange websites in states including Oregon, Vermont and Maryland. The White House has re-emphasized that argument in recent weeks, while saying pent-up demand for coverage will boost sign-ups when the website is fixed.

Sebelius advised consumers not eligible for subsidies to consider buying plans directly from health insurance companies while the administration continues repairing HealthCare.gov.

Although people could use alternate means to buy health insurance, such as paper applications and the telephone hotlines for the exchanges, these methods have significant shortcomings. Health insurance tax credits for people who earn between the poverty level and four times that amount — up to about $46,000 for a single person — only are available via the exchanges. And the only way to compare every plan sold in a local area side by side is to visit an exchange website.

The states operating their own exchanges have seen mixed results, according to a breakdown in the federal report. Covered California, which made its own announcement Wednesday, has seen 35,364 people choose a health plan, and 16,404 New York State of Health users have gotten that far in the process, according the federal report. By contrast, just over 1,000 people using Maryland Health Connection and Vermont Health Connect have, while Cover Oregon hasn’t enrolled anyone into private insurance because it has yet to launch its enrollment portal.

The contrast between the states with well-functioning enrollment systems and those relying on HealthCare.gov is stark. More individuals in California, the most populous state and home to the most uninsured people, have chosen a plan than in all the states with federally run marketplaces combined, the report shows. The number of Californians who got that far is more than 12 times higher than in Texas, the state with the second-largest population and number of uninsured. In five of states using HealthCare.gov — Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming — fewer than 100 people have selected insurance.

Medicaid enrollments are outpacing private insurance sign-ups, the report shows. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia are expanding the federal-state health program for the poor to anyone earning up to 133 percent of the poverty level, which is about $15,300 for a single person. The remaining states opted out of the expansion, leaving about 8 million people without health coverage.

The raw numbers of people getting private insurance on the exchanges in each state arguably are less important than having the right mix of healthy and sick customers, which is crucial to keeping premiums down in future years. Of the 7 million people originally projected to buy insurance on these marketplaces, the White House estimated that 2.7 million needed to be younger and healthier. HHS isn’t releasing demographic information yet about who is signing up, Sebelius said. The first enrollees were older than expected, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing health insurance industry sources.

Obamacare is under intensifying scrutiny on Capitol Hill, as Republicans stage a series of hearings to hammer away at the administration’s failure to launch a working web portal. They will also highlight consumers whose current health plans won’t be available next year in spite of Obama’s oft-stated promise that people wouldn’t lose their benefits because of the law.

The House is scheduled to vote this week on a measure that would let insurers extend 2013 policies into next year, and the bill has attracted a handful of Democratic supporters. In the Senate, Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has been joined so far by six Democrats in favor of legislation that would let insurance companies keep offering their current plans indefinitely to existing customers. Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday urged Obama to find a way to let people keep their plans into next year.

The White House has rejected such legislation as anathema to the Affordable Care Act’s goal of reforming the health insurance market by guaranteeing a minimum level of benefits and financial protections and by keeping insurers from turning away people with pre-existing conditions. The insurance industry has also warned that such proposals could increase premiums by keeping healthy people out of the exchanges. At the same time, Obama apologized to people losing their coverage and said his administration is looking for ways to ease the transition, although he didn’t say how.

 

Low Obamacare enrollment figures turns up heat on White House

About 106,000 people signed up for insurance coverage nationally under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law during October, the government said on Wednesday, a tiny fraction of the millions of people that had been expected to enroll for next year.

The Obama administration had signaled enrollment would be very low in October because of technical failures that have hobbled the HealthCare.gov website used for signing people up in 36 states. But the reported figures show how far the White House has to go to build a new individual market of millions of consumers in 2014 to keep the healthcare program financially viable.

The enrollment in private plans amounts to 1.5 percent of a forecast 7 million people who were expected to sign up by the time enrollment wraps up in the end of March. Nearly 1 million people have successfully checked whether they are eligible for government subsidies toward the new insurance, but have not selected a plan, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The release of the low enrollment numbers for the first month coincided with Obama’s fellow Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives demanding that the White House swiftly help people whose existing insurance policies are being canceled and to fix the broken website by the end of the month.

The sign-up figures reflect people who have picked a new insurance plan but may not have paid their premiums yet. Some 26,794 people signed up for private health insurance plans through the technologically-challenged federal marketplace and 79,391 who signed up through state-based exchanges.

The figures showed 396,261 people were deemed eligible for the government’s Medicaid program or the Children’s Health Insurance Program for the poor.

House Democrats, seething over the problems, met with administration officials for more than an hour on Wednesday, angry that the botched rollout could become a major political liability for the party during the 2014 mid-term elections.

A senior House Democratic aide said lawmakers called for Obama to announce a remedy to the canceled policies before a vote on Friday on a Republican bill allowing people to keep their current health insurance plans if they like them.

House Democratic leaders have urged their members to vote against it, saying it is merely another attempt to repeal the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obama’s biggest domestic policy achievement, commonly known as Obamacare.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he had a long conversation with Obama on Tuesday night, and said he feels “very comfortable” that the website will be fixed.

Obama had repeatedly promised that Americans who liked their health insurance could keep it when the law took effect on October 1, but several million people have received cancellation notices because their plans do not comply with new requirements, such as coverage for mental health treatment.

Republicans questioned administration officials on Wednesday about whether the website will be fixed by the end of November, as Obama has promised, to give people whose plans expire at the end of the year enough time to shop for replacement policies.

Todd Park, Obama’s chief technology officer, stopped short of saying the site would be fixed by the end of the month.

“The team is working really hard to hit that goal and that’s what I’m able to say right now,” Park testified at a sometimes acrimonious House oversight hearing.