Sunday, October 20, 2013


Number of People Selecting Health Exchange Plans: Consider the Source
Another way of saying any information received from a certain source can’t be taken for granted because that source has been wrong before or lacks credibility
Definition “Consider the source.”  Urban Dictionary

Sunday, October 2013 - I am confused about how many Americans have signed on the dotted line for health plans since online health exchanges opened for business on October 1,  three weeks ago.
The number is important because it may determine the fate of ObamaCare.   
If the number is too small, i.e., if too few of the young and healthy select health plans,  rates and deductibles for the rest of us may skyrocket. 
Conversely,  if the number exceeds federal expectations of 7 million by March 1,   ObamaCare may be on the way to becoming a feather in the cap of President Obama,  a confirmation that his “signature domestic achievement” worked in the real world.
The exact number of those eligible and signing is difficult to determine.
A September 5, 2013 Health And Human Services memo specified the Administration’s monthly enrollment targets – 500,000  sign-ups in October, 3.3 million by December 31, and 7.0 million by March 31.   So far the Administration has declined to say it is meeting its targets.    Given the disarray of its computer systems, perhaps it doesn’t  even know.
We do know this.  The 16 state health exchanges are performing than  the federal  exchanges.

Number of individual and family insurance enrollments reported by state-run exchanges.  Eligibility confirmed and plan chosen

Washington state,  46,715

Kentucky, 13,734

Minnesota, 3,769

Connecticut, 2,372’

Rhode Island,  1,701

Nevada, 1,419

Massachusetts, 1,134

Maryland, 1,121

Colorado, 226

District of Columbia, 167

Total  58, 5644

The source for these figures are the state exchanges and the Wall Street Journal. 
A second  source, the analytics firm, comScore, says 25% who have tried to sign up on are now completing the process.  The process includes consumers finding answers to these questions: Which plan to I pick? Do I qualify for federal subsidies? Which doctors can I see? How are drugs covered? Is the provider reliable?
A third source, ehe Advisory Board, a respected Washington D.C. based think tank,  says 192, 000 people have applied, and 55,000 have selected health plans.  That’s far short of the 500,000 expected for October.
A fourth source,  the Associated Press, 476,000 have applied, but  it gives no figures on how many were eligible or selected plans, or qualified for subsidies.
A fifth source, Politico, which  is generally sympathetic with the Administration,  has this to say,
“At least 17 million have visited the site since it opened October 1, according to White House figures released earlier this week. The administration hopes to get 7 million people enrolled in coverage through the exchanges by the end of March, and millions more on Medicaid.”
“But the longer the computer problems persist, the harder it will be to meet that goal. To get covered by Jan. 1, people must enroll by Dec. 15. But they can still sign up for coverage until the end of March 2014.”

A final source,  Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has nnto been forthcoming  on the numbers, to wit:
“Administration officials Saturday night would not release any information beyond the raw number of applications. President Obama plans to address health care at a White House event on Monday.”
Everybody agrees the sign-up process is frustrating, laborious, and error-prone,  One person described the process as like “running into a cyber-brick wall.”
The Obama administration’s chief worry is that not  enough healthy people will sign up, or too many unhealthy people will do likewise,  and a “death spiral” will result.  Rising premiums and skyrocketing deductibles will cause more people to drop out, and the system will collapse because of dashed expectations and overly expensive plans linked to exorbitant deductibles, causing frustrated consumers to say, in essence, “To hell with it.”
Not so long ago, the present sorry scenario seemed improbable.   With promise of subsidies, the Obama P.R. blitz, and  Obama team's skill at mobilizing millions via its electronic expsertise, predictions of  a health exchange screw-up were far-fetched.      In the words of Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist, “It was hard to imagine the Obama White House botching the design and execution of its national health care exchange.  Building WebSites, mastering the Internet – this is what  Team Obama does!” (“ObamaCare, Failing Ahead of Schedule,” New York Times, October 20, 2013)
What  a health exchange online failure  might portend, no one knows – another year’s delay, Republicans taking over the Senate and House in 2014  
Salena Zito, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune,in “ObamaCare Could Go Way of Prohibition,”says the health law  may end like Prohibition – repealed because of its string of unintended consequences delivering “a blow to the gut” of  consumers because of its broken promises, loopholes, and string of unintended consequences.
“Just like Prohibition, she says, “ ObamaCare promised from its onset to change the world: It would provide universal health-insurance coverage at a lower cost without any reduction in coverage choices or quality care, and all of it easily accessed through a government website.”
“So far it has been nothing short of a disaster.”
I think it’s too early to reach this conclusion, but for the moment,  ObamaCare’s prospects fall short of expectations.
Tweet:   Numbers signing up for health exchanges are behind schedule; Obama administration has not been forthcoming in announcing the actual data.

No comments: