1 million and counting

Federal health market surpasses 1 million signups.
Associated Press
Dec 29, 2013

A December surge propelled health care sign-ups through the government's rehabilitated website past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration said Sunday, reflecting new vigor for the problem-plagued federal insurance market.

Combined with numbers for state-run markets due in January, that should put total enrollment in the new private insurance plans under President Barack Obama's health law at about 2 million people through the end of the year, independent experts said.

That would be about two-thirds of the administration's original goal of signing up 3.3 million by Dec. 31, a significant improvement given the technical problems that crippled the federal market during much of the fall. The overall goal remains to enroll 7 million people by March 31.

"It looks like current enrollment is around 2 million despite all the issues," said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, a market analysis firm. "It was a very impressive showing for December."

The administration said that of the more than 1.1 million people now enrolled in the federal insurance exchange, nearly 1 million signed up in December. The majority came days before a pre-Christmas deadline for coverage to start in January. Compare that with a paltry 27,000 in October, the federal website's first, error-prone month.

"We experienced a welcome surge in enrollment as millions of Americans seek access to affordable health care coverage," Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a blog post announcing the figures.

The numbers don't represent a full accounting for the country.

The federal website serves 36 states. Yet to be reported are December results from the 14 states running their own sites. Overall, states have been signing up more people than the federal government. But most of that has come from high performers such as California, New York, Washington, Kentucky and Connecticut. Some states continue to struggle.

Still, the end-of-year spike suggests that the federal insurance marketplace is starting to pull its weight. The windfall comes at a critical moment for Obama's sweeping health care law, which becomes "real" for many Americans on Jan. 1 as coverage through the insurance exchanges and key patient protections kick in.

The administration's concern now shifts to keeping the momentum going for sign-ups, and heading off problems that could arise when people who've already enrolled try to use their new insurance.

"They've got the front end of the system working really well," said insurance industry consultant Robert Laszewski. "Now we can move on to the next question: Do people really want to buy this?" He also estimated 2 million will probably be enrolled this year.

The fledgling insurance exchanges are online markets for subsidized private coverage. Obama needs millions of mostly younger, healthy Americans to sign up to keep costs low for everyone. Open enrollment runs until the end of March.

Tavenner said fixes to the website, overhauled to address widespread technical problems, contributed to December's figures. But things haven't totally cleared up. Thousands of people wound up waiting on hold for telephone help on Christmas Eve for a multitude of reasons, including technical difficulties.

"We have been a little bit behind the curve," acknowledged Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, whose state has the highest proportion of uninsured residents.

"Obamacare is a reality," conceded one of the law's opponents, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who as House oversight committee chairman has been investigating the rollout problems. However, he predicted it will only pile on costs.

"The fact that people well into the middle class are going to get subsidies is going to cause them to look at healthcare...sort of in a Third World way of do we get subsidies from the government for our milk, for our gasoline and, oh, by the way, for our healthcare," said Issa.

For consumers who successfully selected one of the new insurance plans by Dec. 24, coverage should start on New Year's Day. That's provided they pay their first month's premium by the due date, extended until Jan. 10 in most cases.

But insurers have complained that another set of technical problems, largely hidden from consumers, has resulted in the government passing along inaccurate data on enrollees. With a flood of signups that must be processed in just days, it remains unclear whether last-minute enrollees will encounter a seamless experience if they try to use their new benefits come Jan. 1.

The White House says the error rate has been significantly reduced, but the political fallout from website woes could pale in comparison with the heat that Obama might take if Americans who signed up and paid their premiums arrive at the pharmacy or the emergency room and find there's no record of their coverage.

Officials are also working to prevent gaps in coverage for at least 4.7 million Americans whose individual policies were canceled this fall because they fell short of the law's requirements. The administration has said that even if those individuals don't sign up for new plans, they won't face the law's tax penalty for remaining uninsured.

A few states offering their own updates have posted encouraging totals, including New York, where more than 200,000 have enrolled either through the state exchange or through Medicaid, a government program expanded under Obama's health law to cover more people. In California, a tally released Friday showed nearly 430,000 have enrolled through the exchange so far.

Castro and Issa spoke on NBC's "Meet The Press."

___

Alonso-Zaldivar reported from Washington. Reach Josh Lederman at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

 

Comments

8ballinthesidepocket

How many of these free loaders are we psying for?

The Big Dog's back

Before Obamacare, all of them.

Darwin's choice

Your un-intelligence is remarkable.

Bottom Line

Indeed it is.. ***slurp slurp***

anthras

bigdog Re: Before Obamacare, all of them.

The MSM advises of different figures mostly they are saying that around 3million cancellations have been issued since Obamacare ergo they were paying for their own insurance and were able to see the dr. of their choice.

Many of the 1+ million that have signed up were placed into medicaid paid for by the tax payers and if you do the math you should be able to determine more persons were cancelled than have signed up leaving even more uninsured persons to stick it to the hospitals leaving even more for all of us to pay higher premiums to cover. Not to mention several million persons that were working 40 hours per week with a health care coverage that are now working 28 hours per week with no health care coverage.Even if they were able to keep the health coverage they are now working and receiving pay for 12 less hours per week.

Persons will now be paying an Obamacare tax on their healthcare coverage and most companies are just adding the tax to the premium with most persons not aware of the tax. Blue Cross of Alabama has announced that they will itemize the additional tax and fees so their insureds will be aware that they will be paying the tax.

coasterfan

Actually BigDog is 100% correct. Before Obamacare, we ALL paid for the health care expenses for the millions of uninsured Americans, via higher insurance premiums? Luckily, Obamacare forces the uninsured to purchase their OWN coverage, so that we don't have to. Since Republicans are always talking about the need for personal responsibility, I'm sure you must be in favor of Obamacare, as are we Democrats, correct?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Your second sentence seems like universal health to me. Who pays for the care in those systems? Especially if we accept the premise I presume you are using in that any expense a hospital can't collect on is paid directly by the government via our pockets. If it is the case that you think you pay for someone else because a hospital writes off the cost and uses it to offset taxes that are presumably (not actually) owed (that is the only way I can seem to bring a reason why I keep reading this tagline over and over) then we actually should either ban under penalty any/all charity medical work or require hospitals to pay taxes on what the government says it owes instead of actual numbers so that it is always collecting no matter the business.

That pretty much takes care of the problem right there. Unless I am wrong about why you pay for someone else's care directly? Though suppose we were. Suppose that I go to Firelands, get treated, and flip the billing department the bird while I walk out all fixed up. This (somehow) leaves you holding the bill for me. As I asked before, isn't that universal health care already? Who pays for care in that paradise I hear that we need to embrace? We apparently are moving away from it now BECAUSE of the ACA!

Also, I presume you are aware of the words you write. That being said I take major issue with a core support you have with this program. For others who may be reading I'll narrow it down:

"Luckily, Obamacare forces the uninsured to purchase their OWN coverage, so"

See it yet? Let's keep going.

"Obamacare forces the uninsured to purchase their"

Getting warmer.

"forces the uninsured to purchase"

I could stop there, but...

"forces"

DING, DING, DING! There we have it. Can't say we have a winner because this is actually disturbing to read from an enlightened person (non-sarcastic, you earned your teaching degree for a reason) who primarily supports a party that is supposed to REJECT this especially from those on the right who want to impose their morals on others that they know NONE of their life circumstances!

What else should the government - luckily - "force" us to do? How else can our lives be forced into a behavior by someone who isn't you THINKS you should live based on...statistics? Predictions? Please, as you support a system that knows better than its participants while being ran by those same participants, tell me how I should live my life out of one side of a post and condemn others (I'll invoke thinkagain here as I doubt he minds being seen as a nemesis to liberal-minded people - nothing personal thinkagain but I doubt you and coasterfan are very close) who do the same with the other.

Isn't that schizophrenic?! Delusional? That one group can apparently predict with 100% accuracy the personal lives, decisions, influences, and circumstances of a diverse population of over three hundred and ten million citizens? Where am I on your list, as it knows better than me what I should be doing and how I should live. I'd like to see it unless it is all just a part of a mass-hallucination?

Geeze oh Pete. I think my cheeks flushed red writing this. Though I hope you're taking it as a civil discourse.

I guess I'll end this by saying simply personal responsibly does NOT equal forcibly-compelled action. If that was the case then every single person in North Korea absolutely and unquestioningly adores their dictator because they took the responsibility of hanging his family's picture in their homes that are subject to examination.

Clearly being forced by the government by methods that could include execution or multi-generational "loyalty" tracking has nothing to do with them being responsible citizens who hang the pictures on a completely voluntary basis.

Darwin's choice

Great post.

Is this coasterfan??
http://easttexas.craigslist.org/...

Contango

No. He just enjoys walking behind it while it's operating.

Says it smells like roses.

Stop It

Don't try and make sense with thinkagain without bullet points and personal experience, HZ. He is incapable of basic understanding unless his bible tells him so, somewhere in it.

thinkagain

I love me some liberals and atheists! Just like shootin’ fish in a barrel!

The Big Dog's back

sappy, if you want to pay for other peoples healthcare, have at it.

Contango

Re: "if you want to pay for other peoples healthcare,"

With the progressive-socialist wingnuts you have and you will.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Who pays for care in a single payer system, I am curious? Apparently not "us". I already proposed a solution that would meet the demands of yours and coaster's preferences: ban under legal and financial penalty any and all charity medical service. Make it illegal to treat people who can't pay and your dreams of "financial responsibility" will come true. There, no need for a three thousand page bill that spawned 27,000 more pages of regulation. No billion dollar, no-bid contract websites.

mikesee

You are so wrong coaster. Haven't you heard of the word subsidy floated around in the healthcare news. The taxpayer is paying for these plans for those that can't afford them. It is called subsidizing, coaster.

FTFOI

The way I read it is 5,000 of my 12,900 goes toward those who can not afford it. Obama is fulfilling his promise and spreading the wealth.
Next I will let my house forclose, quit my job, divorce my wife, move into an apartment and collect food stamps and free health care. all while letting the wealthy pay for my apartment. Then I can retire early. No need to work if Obama is going to just give it to me. Working is over rated anyway.

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

Democrats Still in Denial on 0-bamacare Failure.

mikesee

I once signed up for a 5k race. Did not run it. Does that still count in the total number of runners?

Sign ups don't mean a thing until they actually make a payment.

coasterfan

Sign ups mean they want insurance, and it's a given that they know what the cost will be, since they get to choose the amount of coverage and cost. If a few default, that would not be the fault of Obamacare, any more than it would be the fault of an auto dealership if someone buys a car and doesn't make payments.

Why complain about something that hasn't happened yet, and something highly unlikely to occur in any significant numbers?

mikesee

They only know of the tainted cost at the time of the signup. New fees are set to happen in 2014 which will increase the cost of these plans.

Dr. Information

and again and again in subsequent years mikesee.

formeremployee

The govt. isn't forcing people to buy cars. If the govt. forces people to purchase health insurance that the people cannot afford, it is the fault of Obamacare if they default.

YoMamma

I signed up to be a millionaire!

SamAdams

There are more "freeloaders" now than ever. Between those who lost coverage, those who can't afford the higher premiums under the "Affordable" Care Act, those who suddenly realized they can sign up for Medicaid instead, and all of those 25 and 26 year-old "children" who remain on Mom and Dad's plan instead of being a young-and-healthy subscriber, well...but hey, at least Obamacare killed a bunch of jobs, too!

coasterfan

Nope. Every person who signs up for Obamacare is one less person for whom we - you and I - had to pay for 100% of their health costs via higher premiums. You don't actually think that hospitals were treating the uninsured for free, did you? At least now, they have to cover a portion of their medical expenses, not to mention their care will be less expensive, since they won't be forced to go to the ER for everything.

Contango

Re: "Every person who signs up for Obamacare is one less person for whom we - you and I - had to pay for 100% of their health costs via higher premiums."

STILL payin' about 60% of it.

Two words: Federal subsidies.

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

Democrats Still in Denial on 0-bamacare Failure.

Northstar

Only issue is applied and accepted to a plan, but cannot find a way to pay. Plus a bunch of bigger issues they did not think about prior to giving subsidies regarding custodial parenting orders , family courts are going to be even more over run now. Each parent will get fined every year because of the alternating tax exemptions vs who is the custodial parent they live with. It is a mess.

This is only one situation....They also forget that this month was the largest month for layoffs or job losses and people are scrambling now to get insurance, next month will be worse since seasonal will be gone and budget cuts for companies will take effect. Dec through Feb are usually open enrollment in companies, somewhere out there I read the Big 3- UHC, Med Mutual and Blue Cross had up to 50% reduction in company sponsored plans, meaning open enrollment will not exist coming up from Dec - Feb, people do not even know and are waiting to find out and smaller companies and individuals are scrambling now also. The thing is a mess.

The website is the worst I have ever seen, no rule based enforcement in the questionaire as you start your application. You can tell by the questions being asked what is important, do you have kids, are they yours, do you claim someone else, do these people have relationship between themselves. The entire thing is guided to people who have children living with them whom also have their own children, and others living with them not their family; which they can claim and get an exemption for looks like...who knows, does not explain it at all......like my 2 yr old can have income to provide the household with..ridiculous. I call June of this year when penalties start flying out....this will all become a bigger mess....so what happens...IRS will be after you with a 50% penalty on top of what you took as a subsidy...and then they will take you house and land to repay that.

ladydye_5

They signed up, did they pay?

JMOP

Guess that extra day helped to get those false numbers up. This is bogus!

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