Even with December surge, Obamacare enrollment won't meet goals
The recent surge in enrollments at both the federal and state Obamacare exchanges has been touted by the law's supporters as "proof" that the law is working.
But the goal of signing up 3 million in 2013 was not achieved and the target number of 7 million enrollees by the March 31 cut off date looks unachievable.
One Democratic Congressman blames Republicans:
"The goal as has been said, it's seven million people signed up by the end of March," Lui observed. "Can that happen?"
"Oh, sure," Norton replied. "When that fine is going to kick in, you're going to see people trotting to sign on like you've never seen it before."
"What we have been battling now is, first, every time the House couldn't think of anything else to do, it had a big debate on repealing Obamacare," Norton continued. "So, there are millions of people out there who think it was repealed."
"So, there was no way to break through that very easily," she concluded.
Beyond the raw numbers, there's the matter of who is signing up. The number of young, healthy adults who have enrolled is classified information, judging by the way the administration is hiding the news.
Experts say the Obama administration faces a tall order in hitting the 7 million enrollees the Congressional Budget Office projected would sign up for ObamaCare in 2014.
After a surge of enrollees in December, 1.1 million people have enrolled in the federal exchange, and another 1 million have enrolled through the 14 state-run marketplaces.
ADVERTISEMENTThat falls short, however, of the administration's stated goal of 3 million enrollees by the end of 2013.
Perhaps even more importantly, the makeup of those enrollees remains unclear.
The idea behind the health exchanges is that young and healthy enrollees will offset costs from the older and sicker enrollees. If most of the ObamaCare recipients are old and sick, it will be tougher for the exchanges to work.
The administration hasn't released a breakdown of who is enrolling, but preliminary data coming out of the state-run exchanges indicates a large number of high-risk consumers.
"I don't see how they could have the balanced risk pool that they need," said Joe Antos of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "The younger people with lower incomes already have education loans, car loans, and such, and these are people who, even with a generous subsidy, it's still going to cost them money out of their pockets."
Antos and John Holahan, a fellow at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, both said the final enrollment number for 2014 is likely be closer to 4 million or 5 million.
Holahan said 7 million was "attainable" but unlikely.
"If they are at 4 million by the end of March, and get another 1 or 2 million through the special enrollment periods by the end of the year, that will be a very good 2014," he said. "It will help that the website is working well, and the insurers will be advertising, and then 2015 will be better."
So 4, maybe 5 million mostly older, sicker Americans will have coverage. If this is the best they can do, it definitely means a radical rise in premiums next year, although in some states, insurance commissioners will try to hold the line on increases. Regardless, it means that fewer people will sign up next year and many will drop the coverage they bought this year.
"Death spiral," anyone?