The Obama administration blew the doors off Obamacare’s enrollment expectations this week and scored big political points.
But in doing so, they may have set Obamacare’s expectations going forward at a level that can only undermine their credibility and that of the new health law.
What happens when the real number––the number of people who actually completed their enrollment––comes in far below the seven million?
What happens when the hard data shows that most of these seven million were people who had coverage before?
What happens when it becomes clear that the Obamacare insurance exchanges are making hardly a dent in the number of those uninsured?
Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the non-profit Rand Corporation estimated that two-thirds of the first six million people to enroll in Obamacare were previously insured––only two million were previously uninsured.
If all of the one million people who signed up in the last week were previously uninsured, that would mean that only three million previously uninsured people have purchased coverage in the government-run exchanges.
Rand also estimated that about nine million people have enrolled directly with the insurance companies, bypassing the government-run exchanges. But Rand also reported that the vast majority of those were previously insured.
If 20% do not pay, as has been the case since Obamacare launched, then the real Obamacare exchange enrollment number is about 5.7 million.
According to the March report from the Obama administration, 83% of those signing up were subsidy eligible.
If 83% of those 5.7 million were subsidy eligible, then about 4.7 subsidy eligible have signed-up in the first open enrollment. The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated that 17.2 million people were subsidy eligible when the new health law launched.
That would mean that only 27% of subsidy eligible people have enrolled––and 73% of those who were subsidy eligible have not.
By celebrating seven million enrollments, the administration has set some pretty high expectations: That Obamacare is making a huge dent in the number of those who were uninsured.
But it would appear that is not the case and they will have to manage a steady flow of hard data that will undermine today’s celebration––in an election-year.
Of course, these are all estimates. The Obama administration could very quickly report the hard numbers on just how many people enrolled and paid. They could also very easily and quickly give us hard numbers on just how effective Obamacare has been in reducing the number of those uninsured.
Robert Laszewski has been a fixture in Washington health policy circles for the better part of three decades. He currently serves as the president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates of Alexandria, Virginia. You can read more of his thoughtful analysis of healthcare industry trends at The Health Policy and Marketplace Blog, where this post first appeared.