Administration expects fewer Obamacare sign-ups
It's "Obamacare Saturday" in America this weekend, the time when the federal exchange opens and people can start buying Obamacare subsidized insurance plans again.
When the program was launched, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million people would purchase insurance through the exchanges this year, with a projection of 25 million by 2017.
I don't think they're going to make that goal. In fact, it may take another decade at the rate that HHS is projecting growth.
Federal health officials are projecting that ObamaCare enrollment will include at least 3.1 million fewer people next year than congressional budget analysts thought.
HHS, which previously declined to project 2015 sign-ups, said that between 9 million and 9.9 million people are expected to participate in the exchanges in 2015.
The figure was less than the CBO’s projection of 13 million for 2015 enrollment, raising questions about the exchanges' performance, compared with expectations.
HHS officials described their figures as more complete than the CBO's and said the health insurance marketplaces are simply not "ramping up" at the rate the office projected.
Officials rejected the notion that the slower adoption rate could pose a problem for President Obama's signature healthcare law.
"Our charge was to make use of the available data to learn from our experiences and to build a projection from the ground up," said an HHS official, who declined to be identified on the record.
"We think the evidence points to a longer ramp-up rate than the CBO projections had, and that is based on what we've learned over the last year from looking at our own data."
The last CBO estimates were from April, not long after the close of open enrollment. The office estimated that sign-ups on the exchanges would increase steadily to hit 25 million in 2017, a figure that is widely cited as a target for ObamaCare's success.
The HHS said it's likely to take "four or five" years for the system to reach maturity, but emphasized that 9 million to 9.9 million exchange participants in 2015 will still be "important and significant."
The tension between the HHS and CBO projections is likely to draw criticism from Capitol Hill, where critics of the law are sensitive to any signs it might be encountering trouble.
The CBO conducts nonpartisan analysis of laws and legislation that is often seen as authoritative, even as it irritates partisans on both sides.
The new projections are released at a crucial time as federal health officials are preparing for the marketplaces to open for enrollment on Saturday.
The system all but failed to launch last year, a technological and political mess for the Obama administration that nonetheless seemed to lighten as more than 8 million people signed up.
The HHS said Monday that 7.1 million people remained as paying customers in the marketplaces as of last month.
The massive overestimate of sign-ups for this year will be the least of the program's worries. Obamacare's problems are only going to grow:
1. Come tax time, expect and incredible clusterfark. Millions of people will be charged the fee for not having health insurance or the wrong kind of insurance. Millions more will get a bill from the IRS because their subsidy was too generous and they have to pay back to the government what they owe.
2. The business mandate will come into effect later this year. No one knows how many companies are going to reduce the number of employees or reduce hours of full-time employees to exempt them from the law.
3. It is probable that some Obamacare consumers will not see a rise in their premium. But most will.
4. The federal exchange, healthcare.gov, is still not finished and won't be for many months – if ever.
The recent revelation about the Obamacare architect, Jonathan Gruber, who celebrated the law's lack of transparency and called the American people "stupid," underscores the real problem with the Affordable Care Act. It has no credibility. Health insurance has been left in the hands of political hacks and incompetent bureaucrats who continuously lie and cover up the law's inadequecies.
Someone or several someones should go to jail for this crime against the taxpayer.