On Wednesday, February 12th, HHS reported what Secretary Sebelius called “very, very encouraging news” about enrollment in the state and federal insurance exchanges. In January alone, 1.1 million people signed up for coverage, according to USA Today, bringing the total enrollment to 3.3 million.
While the reaction to this news is mixed, with some pointing out that the number is short of the 4.4 million that the government had expected would enroll by this time and that the final number will likely be less than the 7 million mark forecast by the Congressional Budget Office, the January enrollment figures are certainly good news for the administration.
With two months left in the open enrollment period, which ends March 31st, and a possible surge in enrollment before the deadline, it’s certainly realistic to think that enrollment could top 5 million and possibly even hit 6 million. Of course, the final enrollment numbers don’t matter as much as who is enrolling, so some critics are quick to point out that only 25% of enrollees to date are between ages 18 and 34, a group that is considered critical to the program’s success.
What none of these enrollment reports mention, though, is that there are additional individuals and families who have signed up for coverage outside the exchanges, without the benefit of a government subsidy. Nobody knows how many people have done this, but for carriers that operate both inside and outside the exchanges, the two groups will be lumped together in the same rating pool. In addition to the enrollments in and outside the exchange, millions of other Americans have signed up for Medicaid and CHIP.
In what appears to be more good news for the administration, Gallup is reporting that the uninsured rate in the first quarter of 2014 is at a 5-year low, though it says that it’s too early to tell whether this decline is a result of the Affordable Care Act or not. Interestingly, as reported by BenefitsPro.com, “Gallup found that the uninsured rate for 26- to 34-year-olds is falling faster than any other group. The rate for uninsured young adults is at 25.7 so far, down from 30.2 last quarter. Despite the improvement, the age group is still the largest segment of uninsured.”
The best analysis of the latest enrollment numbers probably comes from Politico, which says “maybe Obamacare isn’t going to be a train wreck after all. Maybe it’ll be more like one of those Metro trains that runs kind of slowly, and sometimes stops in the middle of the tracks for no apparent reason, but eventually gets you where you need to go.”
One thing is for certain: even with most of the bugs worked out and enrollment numbers on the rise, Healthcare.gov is anything but a bullet train. But agents do have the opportunity of offering a much faster, much better solution to their clients, one that can sell both subsidized and non-subsidized plans plus a lot of other products that individuals and families want and need. Learn more here.