Filed Under:

The Health Care Numbers Are Out, And They're Disappointing

Play associated audio

The Obama administration released its much anticipated enrollment numbers for the first month of the troubled HealthCare.gov website Wednesday. And as predicted, the numbers were disappointing.

Just over 100,000 people managed to navigate the process and choose a health plan between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2 — 106,185 people, to be precise.

But barely a quarter of those, 26,794, enrolled through the federal website that's signing up people in 36 of the states. The rest enrolled through state marketplaces.

Earlier this week, people were leaking numbers that suggested that the number who enrolled via the federal exchange was about 40,000; 26,794 is even lower than that. On the other hand, what it really tells us is that the HealthCare.gov website wasn't working, so people couldn't choose a plan. That's not exactly breaking news.

On the state side, some states have been reporting their enrollment numbers all along. The one state we hadn't heard from was California. On Wednesday, federal officials reported that 35,000 people had enrolled in California — nearly half of the 76,391 total for the 11 states included in this report.

Questions remain, of course, including exactly what the administration is counting in these numbers.

In order to be formally counted as enrolled in a health plan, at least by an insurance company, you have to pay the first month's premium. But coverage doesn't begin until Jan. 1 at the earliest. Very few people are going to sign up in October and front out money three months in advance. So the administration is counting what are being called "shopping cart" people. They are those who have completed the enrollment process and chosen a plan but have not necessarily paid their first month's premium.

We now know that a lot of people are qualifying for Medicaid coverage or the Children's Health Insurance Program; 396,261 people have been deemed eligible for these programs so far. About 213,000 have enrolled through the state exchanges, and 183,000 on the federal exchange.

That's probably because in some states there was a big outreach effort to find people eligible for Medicaid or children's insurance. Also, the part of the state and federal exchanges that determines eligibility for Medicaid was working pretty well in October, compared with the part on the federal website that determines subsidies.

Just about every health care analyst points out that you shouldn't expect a lot of people to sign up during the first month of a six-month sign-up period. So the numbers probably would have been pretty small even if everything had been working just fine.

What this does tell us, however, is that there will be more pressure on the system, particularly the federal website, as we go forward. That's especially true if there's a surge of people who want to have insurance that begins Jan. 1. They have to sign up by Dec. 15.

And if that website isn't working as promised by the end of this month — or even if it is — there could be a huge demand that could very well overwhelm the system.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Before India,' A Young Gandhi Found His Calling In South Africa

The racism Gandhi encountered in South Africa helped spark a lifetime of activism. Historian Ramachandra Guha says without that experience, "he would never have become a political animal."
NPR

Behold Ukrainian Easter Art: Incredible, Inedible Eggs

Even 2,000 years ago, people seemed to know that the egg could be a source of life. And an ancient art form has been passed down, transforming a symbolic source of food into a dazzling decoration.
NPR

Is Obamacare A Success? We Might Not Know For A While

Fans and foes want to know whether the Affordable Care Act is meeting its goals. But, for good reasons, there are no clear answers yet.
WAMU 88.5

Capital Bikeshare Supplier Bought, Reopening Door To Expansion

Bixi, the company that supplies bicycles and bike stations to the Capital Bikeshare program, has been rescued from bankruptcy. But does that mean the bike sharing will resume expansion in our area?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.