First hard numbers on Obamacare enrollment

We've heard a lot over thte last few months about the great success of Obamacare in enrolling people in the program. But the numbers the administration and Obamacare advocates have been tossing around have been based on surveys, not actual numbers.

Now, after gathering data from states and looking at hard numbers supplied by various agencies, the Heritage Foundation has published a paper that shows employer based insurance coverage declining while there was a modest increase in the purchase of private insurance premiums.

The upshot is that Obamacare is covering far fewer net people than the administration is claiming, when considering the drop in employer coverage and the increase in private insurance coverage:

Nonetheless, this first tranche of data is highly revealing. Drew and I present the numbers and analyze them in more detail in our new report, but here are three key takeaways from the data for the six-month period of October 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014:

Net enrollment in the individual-coverage market grew by 2,236,942 individuals, while net enrollment in employer group coverage declined by 1,716,540 individuals.

The decline in employer-sponsored coverage offset 77 percent of the gain in individual-market coverage, for a net increase in private-market coverage of only 520,000 individuals during the period.

Medicaid and CHIP enrollment reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show that enrollment in those programs increased by about 5 million individuals during the same six-month period, with 87 percent of those gains occurring in the 26 states (plus the District of Columbia) that elected to adopt Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to able-bodied adults.

The biggest piece of the puzzle still missing is the coverage status of the 3,777,438 individuals whom HHS reported as picking an exchange plan between March 1 and the close of open enrollment in April. Few, if any, of them would have had their coverage activated before the end of March, so those who actually gained coverage will show up in the second-quarter data, along with anyone who selected an exchange plan earlier but had his enrollment delayed beyond March due to the exchanges’ software problems.

Even so, this first installment of enrollment data marks a shift from speculation to reality in the ongoing public debate over Obamacare. It also offers guidance on what to expect next.

Assuming no further erosion in employer group coverage, and further assuming that all the individuals who picked an exchange plan during the last two months of open enrollment actually obtained coverage, it now appears that the upper bound for any net increase in private coverage during the first year of Obamacare will be in the neighborhood of 5 million individuals. Of course, those two assumptions are big ifs, so the final figure might well be lower.

points out that even with an expected bump in March coverages, no more than 5 million people bought a plan under Obamacare. And that number will probably be lower because it assumes everyone who bought a policy in March paid their first month's premium.

Granted, the whole argument over how many have enrolled in an Obamacare insurance plan really isn't that important. The government is forcing everyone to buy insurance or suffer the consequences of paying a tax, so it's hardly cause for celebration that people want to avoid any IRS entanglements.. Isn't it more significant that tens of millions of Americans didn't sign up?

The real problem is that it appears that about 8 million people have signed up for Medicaid under the expanded coverage offered by Washington. Haislmaeir concludes:

So far, this is not a particularly impressive performance — unless, of course, you believe that giving several million able-bodied, working-age adults substandard government health coverage as a consolation prize for remaining unemployed or underemployed — and doing so at considerable disruption and expense for everyone else — constitutes a significant achievement or an acceptable substitute for pro-growth economic policies.

The already creaky Medicaid program - ridden with fraud and a shrinking doctor pool who will treat Medicaid patients - may be better than nothing, as liberals will argue. But the point is lost on the left that the program is already broken and adding to the burden on taxpayers who are paying 100% of the extra costs is only going to make it worse.



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