Obama health target: 500,000 signups by Oct. 31

Officials worry computer glitches will cause would-be enrollees to give up
Associated Press
Oct 17, 2013


For the first month alone, the Obama administration projected that nearly a half million people would sign up for the new health insurance markets, according to an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press. But that was before the markets opened to a cascade of computer problems.

If the glitches persist and frustrated consumers give up trying, that initial goal, described as modest in the memo, could slip out of reach.

The Sept. 5 memo, for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, lists monthly enrollment targets for each state and Washington, D.C., through March 31, the last day of the initial open enrollment period under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The new online insurance markets, called exchanges in some states, are supposed to be the portals to coverage for most of the nation's nearly 50 million uninsured people. Middle-class people without job-based coverage can shop for subsidized private plans, while low-income people are steered to an expanded version of Medicaid in states that have agreed to expand that safety net program.

Although the Oct. 1 launch of the markets was a top priority for the White House, the rollout was quickly overwhelmed by computer problems, and many potential customers still have not been able to enroll. Insurers say signups are coming through, but slowly. The administration has refused to release enrollment numbers.

A surge of interest by consumers going online appeared to trigger the problems, which also seem to involve underlying software flaws and design shortcomings undetected or overlooked in testing. The administration is holding the explanation close, while working feverishly to fix the glitches — with incomplete results so far.

In Cincinnati on Wednesday, Sebelius urged Americans to keep coming back to healthcare.gov if they can't get through. "Prices don't change and the product doesn't run out," she said.

In the memo, officials estimated that 494,620 people would sign up for health insurance under the program by Oct. 31. And that was portrayed as a slow start.

"We expect enrollment in the initial months to be low," said the memo titled "Projected Monthly Enrollment Targets for Health Insurance Marketplaces in 2014."

A big jump was expected after Thanksgiving, since Dec. 15 is the last day people can sign up so their coverage will take effect Jan. 1. Starting in the new year, the health care law requires virtually all Americans to have insurance or face fines. At the same time, insurance companies will be forbidden from turning away people in poor health.

The memo projected enrollment would reach 3.3 million nationally by Dec. 31.

Signups were expected to spike again in March, as procrastinators noticed the approaching end of open enrollment season. "We anticipate a surge of enrollment in December and March," the memo said.

By the end of March, total enrollment through the markets was expected to surpass 7 million, an estimate originally from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and then used by the administration as the foundation for its projections.

"These numbers are one projection of how the CBO's estimate of 7 million enrollees in year one could break down," HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement. "Projections are constantly changing based on experience. We are focused on reaching as many people as possible in each state."

The Obama administration has promised enrollment numbers by the middle of next month for the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead in running the markets.

The 14 states running their own markets, along with Washington, D.C., have released some data. But it's hard to discern a clear pattern, since the reporting dates are different from state to state.

California reported 16,300 applications processed as of Oct. 5. The memo projects 91,000 people will enroll in the state by the end of the month.

Kentucky reported 18,351 applications processed as of Oct. 9. That would exceed the memo's projection of 15,400 for the month.

Washington state reported 24,949 applications processed as of Monday, a little more than the memo's October projection of 23,800.

Maryland reported 566 applications processed as of Oct. 6, compared with 10,500 projected for the month by the memo.

There are several reasons why enrollment numbers are important for the overall success of the law.

Most people spend relatively modest amounts on medical care each year, and a small proportion of patients accounts for the overwhelming majority of costs. Since older, sicker people are expected to enroll as the law lifts barriers that now keep them from getting insurance, premiums from lots of younger, healthier people are needed to help offset those costs.

Also, state numbers are as important as national totals. That's because each state's insurance market will remain separate under the law. "Obamacare" doesn't create a one-size-fits-all national program — like Medicare — but a bunch of state programs. That means lots of young healthy people signing up in California, for example, cannot cross-subsidize older, sicker people in another state.

"You can bust through these targets, but if it's mostly older and sicker people, then you are not in good shape," said Larry Levitt, a health insurance expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.



Tell the Feds to sign up!

2cents's picture

Yea, why doesn't the "Obama" in Obama☭are lead by example and sign up?

Yet proving once again that: A camel is a horse designed by bureaucrats.

2cents's picture

LOL, example by a veto! I think I will veto the fed :0


Veto all you want. Conservatives are the minority opinion, and your veto has zero weight. Of course, the same fed naysayers are always first in line for gov't funding, when a tornado or hurricane hits their house...


Re: "fed naysayers are always first in line for gov't funding,"

Just getting some of the money back that the Washington kleptocrats that you love stole from avg. Americans.

Speakin' of govt. funding:

So how are those OH taxpayer GUARANTEED health and welfare benefits working out for those of you in the protected class?

Wouldn't you love to see HHS and the the U.S. Treasury abscond your union trust funds?

It's coming. The kleptocrats need more and more assets to help keep the massive govt. boondoggle goin'.


LOL, we all know coasternut would go bonkers if he were forced to sign up for Obamacare. Ever notice how the biggest cheerleaders for Obamacare are those who know that they won't have to sign up for it? You know, I'm gonna make a call to my state rep and the governor today and suggest that the state pass legislation that all retired employees be forced into Obamacare. Even if the state provides a small subsidy it will still save money.


Re: "all retired employees be forced into Obamacare"

You might also suggest that the public employee retirement pension fund trusts be folded into the SS trust fund.

Let 'em get a taste of REAL socialism.

BTW: Argentina and Poland stole their respective country’s private pension funds.


Only a fool would say: It can't happen here.


Re: "fed naysayers are always first in line for gov't funding,"

So if you love BIG GOVT. sucking on the fed teat is OK?

Absurd argument.


Please go back to your history books teach and read what our founding fathers said about majority/mob rule and then get back to me. There is a reason they made the US a Representative REPUBLIC, not a Democracy. Looking back at some of your old posts when the Dems didn't have control, I noticed that you were completely against the majority rules idea. Thatttsss riiiight, you beliefs have evolved...into hypocrisy. For a teacher you sure are an ignorant cuss.

2cents's picture

"first in line for gov't funding, when a tornado or hurricane hits"

Responsible people that have investments in their homes have home owners insurance to rebuild.


I think the government estimates for sign-ups are overly optimistic (though to be fair, most privately held businesses often offer optimistic projections as well). But let's pretend for a second that they're close. You're STILL talking about a drop in the bucket in comparison with the estimate of 30-50 million uninsured!

Looks like a whole lot of Americans have finally figured out that Obamacare is neither affordable nor will it ensure better healthcare. Too bad they bought Pelosi's "we have to pass the law to know what's in it" with some sense of optimism. Since when have politicians on EITHER side of the aisle thought of YOU first? Under any circumstance, the more likely result is generally bad for you while it's good for them. But under THESE circumstances, it's likely to be DEVASTATING (either financially or physically or BOTH) for you! And them? Well, they've exempted themselves. Wonder why?


Have you noticed the incessant printing of articles by the lamestream media about these so-called computer glitches? It's being done to make excuses why people aren't signing up. While I'm still tabulating the results of the poll I had conducted for my dissertation, it looks as though most healthy people (ones free of pre-existing conditions) are not planning on signing up and will risk the fine (which by the way, the IRS can't collect unless you have a refund, and there is no criminal penalty for not paying it). Of those polled and counted so far that are taking advantage of the exchanges most have one or more pre-existing conditions (the unhealthy group). If the majority of people signing up are unhealthy, Obamacare will collapse under its own weight. The whole program relies on a large pool of healthy beneficiaries in order to work. This is why when I spoke with my congressman I suggested that they go ahead and take a hands off approach to Obamacare because the trend is showing that it will collapse without any changes to the law.


from "spread the wealth" to "spread the health"


While you're entirely right that Obamacare will collapse under its own weight — and likely a whole lot sooner than later — I disagree that we should just let it happen. There are two primary reasons why:

1. When it fails, instead of saying, "Oops! Let's go back to square one and see if we can come up with a better way to reform the healthcare system," I'm afraid the progressives are FAR more likely to say, "Oops! Well, we TOLD you the free market can't work, so we're going to go to nationalized healthcare now."

Just as importantly:

2. Part and parcel of the failure is going to involve MASSIVE expenses, both for the government as a whole and for many individual citizens as well. If only the far left Democrats suffered, I'd dearly love to sit back and spit, "Told you!" between uncontrollable bouts of laughter. But that's not going to be the case. Except for the very rich and the already-entirely-dependent poor, WE'RE going to suffer. And I don't know how long it will take (if ever) to reverse the job losses, the foreclosures, the bankruptcies, the homelessness...and the gods KNOW we can't reverse any serious damages to some individuals' health that are also sure to result!

Since Congress failed to defund Obamacare (or at least delay it until it CAN be defunded), I'm in favor of defunding it by default. That, by the way, is looking like a real possibility right now. And I didn't even DO anything, LOL!


The LOSERS are at it again! SMDH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Re: "The LOSERS are at it again!"

And the short-term "winners" are those like you on SSDI, Medicaid and SNAP right?

Enjoy the gravy while it lasts - 'cause it never does.

Stop It

Why is your head *damned*, deertracker? Is that a condition that has a cure? I see all these "shakin' my damn head" and "roll eyes" from you and others and wonder if it's a *tick* or some Tourette syndrome type of stuff.


I have a movie for you to watch, it's called The Purge. While it may seem a little over the top, what a perfect way to do away with the unproductive members of our society. The handouts would be short term indeed.


Is that white gravy or brown gravy? I don't like white gravy! Do you?


Sure you do, all over your face.

Darwin's choice

And, that one's outta the park....!!


. . . . only 499,950 to go . . . .


500 million dollars for a website that does not work, And you people trust these same folks with your healthcare. Makes me think Used car salesmen do not have it too rough with all these suckers walking around.


So much crying here.....

Darwin's choice

"The numbers don't lie..."

Good video, you should watch...republicans and democrats


Erie County Resident

Let me get this straight from the Obamabot Socialist Party supporters.

Your master has had how many years to get the websites setup and running but all they do is crash.
So if they can't even get a website to work I'm suppose to trust my life & healthcare to these same idiots?

You go for it cupcake, I'll take my chances on my own.
It'll be safer anyway.