Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touted the new Obamacare enrollment figures in a conference call Wednesday: 3.3 million Americans in exchanges by the end of January, still significantly less than original targets.
The Obama administration’s initial enrollment goal through January was 4.4 million total; though two-thirds of the enrollment period has passed, the health exchanges have made it less than halfway to their enrollment goal of 7 million.
A total of 1.1 million people selected a plan on the exchanges in January, a decline from the 1.8 million that signed up on state and federal marketplaces in December. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spokeswoman Julie Bataille was unable to confirm the drop, but noted that the 1.1 million sign-ups just barely beat HHS’s expected January enrollment of 1,059,900 — the first time Obamacare’ s hit an enrollment projection yet.
Though HHS was able to report one piece of good news, the numbers are still suspect. Officials refused to release key details about the numbers, including how many of the 3.3 million enrollees paid their premiums.
Now that the first month of available coverage has passed, any of the signups that failed to send their first premium payment to their insurer are officially out of the system, but HHS refused to provide any details on paid vs. unpaid enrollees and did not adjust their enrollment numbers to reflect any such canceled enrollments from January.
The limited number of state reports available show that payment rates are surprisingly low across the country, especially in high-enrollment states such as California and New York.
Also overlooked by HHS officials was the percentage of enrollees that are previously uninsured. Though the administration said it was unable to release any information on prior coverage for exchange enrollees, CMS official Gary Cohen noted that some uninsured will be seeking coverage outside of the exchanges.
Meanwhile, the youth enrollment rate rose only to just under 25 percent overall, leaving the administration with just two months to get the averages up to their goal of 38-39 percent young adults. For January enrollments alone, young adults made up 27 percent of all sign-ups, not nearly enough to bring the exchange risk pool up to snuff.
Once people who don’t pay are filtered out, the proportion of young and healthy enrollees could drop even further.
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