Obamacare sign-ups may be growing, but the law hasn’t made any strides at attracting the biggest uninsured populations, according to data released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services.
During the health law’s first open enrollment period in 2014, the exchanges attracted just shy of the Congressional Budget Office’s original target of 7 million customers. This time around, the administration missed the CBO’s target again with 11.7 million sign-ups by Feb. 22, according to HHS.
That’s not final yet. HealthCare.gov, which serves as the exchange for 37 states this year, is reopening for tax season, allowing those who say they didn’t realize they’d owe the federal government the individual mandate penalty. Most state-run exchanges have extended their enrollment period as well.
But so far, some of the poorest showings were from Latinos, who represent a large portion of the uninsured, and from young adults, whose relative healthiness is vital to the financial stability of Obamacare exchanges.
At the end of the second enrollment period, neither population had increased its share in the 37 states with exchanges run out of HealthCare.gov.
During this year’s enrollment period, 11 percent of sign-ups at HealthCare.gov identified as Latino — the exact same as in 2014. The share of African-American sign-ups actually fell to just 14 percent, down from 17 percent in 2014; whites still make up the majority of Obamacare customers at 65 percent, up slightly from 63 percent last year. HHS was sure to note that this year’s new sign-ups were barely more likely to be Latino compared to returning enrollees — 12 percent of new 2015 selections were by Latinos compared with 10 percent of active and automatic reenrollees.
Those numbers aren’t perfect — about a third of sign-ups elected not to submit their ethnicity. But it indicates that HealthCare.gov has now twice failed to fully reach a significant chunk of the uninsured population. Latinos accounted for 30 percent of the uninsured population the U.S. before Obamacare, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Obamacare advocates made it their goal to increase several key factors where health exchanges had failed the first time around, especially increasing the number of Latinos who signed up for health coverage. Enroll America, a pro-Obamacare nonprofit staffed by former administration officials, HHS and other advocates focused on Latinos and promised to kick their efforts into “overdrive” in January with over 600 events scheduled to promote enrollment.
HHS secretary Sylvia Burwell herself made outreach to the Latino community a priority, emphasizing that the federal government wouldn’t ask any questions about immigration status to reassure any people who stay away out of fear that signing up with the government exchange could put relatives present in the U.S. illegally at risk. (RELATED: Burwell: We Need To Give Obamacare To DREAMers)
Burwell didn’t name a target number for Latino sign-ups, but the lack of any improvement is an area of concern, as is the stagnation in another area — young adults.
In order for the exchanges to remain solvent financially, they need enough healthy Americans to purchase plans to offset the costs of the sick. The Obama administration made it their goal to attract enough young, less costly adults between the ages of 18 and 34 to make up about 37 percent of exchange customers. That effort is a flop for the second year in a row — in both 2014 and 2015, just 28 percent of total plan selections were by the targeted “young invincibles.”
Like Latinos, the percentage of 18- and 34-year-olds is higher for new customers than it is returning — significantly so. Thirty-one percent of new customers were young adults, slightly higher than last year, but not enough to boost young invincibles’ overall share in the exchanges at all. While 28 percent of last year’s sign-ups were young invincibles, 21 percent actively reenrolled and 29 percent were automatically reenrolled by the administration.
That’s despite President Obama’s instantly viral video for Buzzfeed promoting Obamacare enrollment, complete with a selfie stick and the phrase ‘YOLO,’ several days before the end of the open enrollment period. (RELATED: Greta Slams ‘Tone Deaf’ Obama For Filming Buzzfeed Video During Hostage Crisis [VIDEO])