A Surge Of Enrollment Stragglers

Daily Enrollments

There are now six million Obamacare enrollees. Jon Cohn, who passes along the chart above, is optimistic:

[T]he fact that enrollment will probably be close to the original projections suggests that the law is working more or less like it’s supposed to work. Whether that’s good or bad, obviously, is a matter of opinion. Most readers are familiar with mine.

John Marshall thinks the administration might hit its target:

That still leaves the sign ups a million short of the 7 million sign up prediction the Congressional Budget Office made last year. … But remember, people sign up in big numbers, right before the deadline. During the final 8 days before the last deadline in December 750,000 signed up. Between December 16th and December 24th. If we assume the 6 million number is through yesterday that leaves 5 more days to enroll.

Allahpundit deflates the numbers:

[A]s far as I know, the new numbers do include people who’ve placed a plan in their virtual shopping cart on Healthcare.gov but who haven’t pulled the trigger and actually purchased it.

That policy dates back to last year, when the White House was desperate for good news about enrollments so they decided to treat “sign-ups” as people who’ve reached merely the next to last stage of the purchase process. All of which means that not only might this large risk pool nonetheless be toxically skewed towards people in comparatively poor health, but the numbers that HHS is handing out here almost certainly overstate the actual number of enrollees by hundreds of thousands (or even a million or more) people.

Avik Roy makes related points:

If we assume that 80 percent of the 6 million will ultimately pay up, that’s 4.8 million enrollees. And we don’t know what percentage of those enrollees were previously uninsured. After all, the core goal of Obamacare is to increase the number of Americans with health insurance. Thus far, surveys indicate that the vast majority of enrollees were previously insured.

If we assume, beyond the available evidence, that as many as half of Obamacare exchange enrollees were previously uninsured, we end up with 2.4 million uninsured exchange enrollees. The Congressional Budget Office’s original prediction was that more than 6 million previously uninsured people would sign up for exchange-based coverage in the first year.

Finally, Bernstein wonders why we define reaching the enrollment goal as “success”:

There’s nothing at all magical about this number. Reaching it doesn’t mean that Obamacare “works.” Surpassing the goal might have some effect on the federal budget (more signups, for example, presumably mean higher subsidy costs), but there’s no obvious correlation between the signup total and anything else.

There is still way more that we don’t know about this new world and the details matter a lot for insurers setting next year’s premiums. We don’t know, for example, how many of those who signed up will wind up paying premiums. We don’t know the mix of young and old. And until people start making claims, we also won’t know the mix of healthy and unhealthy.