57,497 Pennsylvanians Apply for Coverage Through HealthCare.Gov, 2,207 Enroll in October

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The numbers are out! Approximately 106,000 Americans are now enrolled in a new private insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act, while about 400,000 have been enrolled in expanded Medicaid programs pending whether or not their state complied with the expansion under the new law. Of those, 57,497 Pennsylvanians applied for new plans under the Affordable Care Act, while 3,788 were determined to be Medicaid/CHIP-eligible and 2,207 enrolled in a new marketplace plan.

You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t agree that the rollout of healthcare.gov was a near disaster. From its early days, you could barely get onto the website, then you could get on but not apply, and now they seem to be at the point where you can apply but it’s still very difficult to actually enroll. These newly released numbers back up those frustrations.

There are a few points to make with regards to this report:

  • People want health insurance. With a very troubled website, 57,497 Pennsylvanians and 1.5 million Americans applying for coverage in its first month isn’t something the gawk at. Those numbers would be much higher if the marketplace had been functioning properly since the beginning of October. For instance, 26.8 million unique visitors went to the website in its first month — a much higher percentage [obviously] would have signed up if they could actually get through, like they could in California.
  • Pennsylvania’s enrollment numbers are partially Tom Corbett’s fault. It’s fine if this makes me sound partisan, because that doesn’t make it not true. Most states that set up their own marketplaces are doing phenomenally better than the federal website. For example, California enrolled 35,000 people — whereas all of the states relying on the federal exchange only enrolled 27,000 [in private insurance]. There are many problems with the healthcare.gov website — but one of the big reasons is that it was never meant to take on the traffic of half the states. If each state had set up their own online marketplace, as the legislation intended, people would be having far less trouble. Governor Corbett opted out of creating an online marketplace to give people access to private health insurance as well as expanding Medicaid solely for political reasons. A rough estimate if the uninsured signed up in federal exchanges at the same rate they did with state exchanges, there would be an additional 150,000 with health insurance.
  • Watch closely for the enrollment numbers in March (the month that matters). Most people compare the Affordable Care Act to a nationalized version of Governor Romney’s health reform plan in Massachusetts (which is now very popular amongst its residents and insure over 90% of them). But if people were watching Massachusetts as closely as they’re watching Obamacare, they’d notice that 0.3% of MA residents signed up for RomneyCare in the first month until the penalty kicked in:

RomneyCare Enrollment

The Obama administration’s goal is to hit 7 million enrollees by the end of March (2.5m of whom being younger, healthier Americans). 500,000 enrollees in October is certainly not making anyone in the administration excited, but they are seven percent to their goal in a very troubled first month as opposed to RomneyCare, which was at 0.3%. The administration is making promises for huge strides for healthcare.gov by November 30th, but most agree it’s unlikely to be completely fixed by then.

In good news for the administration, there are seemingly very few [true] reports about people not being able to afford health insurance plans through the exchange — and when you do, they’re normally debunked pretty quickly by someone who actually understands health care. My favorite ones are from the people who freak out and run to the news about paying more just to have another journalist call them afterwards and explain that their plan could now be amazingly better if they looked into it more. That’s not to say that there won’t be anybody with increased prices, but those people will overwhelmingly be making more than $45,000/yr and currently have very poor/bare bones coverage that they should get rid of anyway, because they will be in far more trouble if they ever get sick.

Personally, from the ~10 people I’ve helped navigate the site (all in Pennsylvania) for a new plan, they were all (literally 100%) very happy with the prices quoted after subsidies, whether it was people who have no insurance at all or people currently paying inordinate amounts on the private market. Though, to be fair, while it is now much easier to look at the prices and compare the plans — we still had a very difficult time getting to the point where you can actually enroll.

To sum up: These enrollment numbers aren’t good — but with such a rocky roll-out, they could’ve been way worse; Pennsylvania’s low numbers are (at least) partially Tom Corbett’s fault; and we’re obviously going to obsess over these numbers each month, but the March 2014 enrollee stats are really the only ones you need to know.

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3 Responses to 57,497 Pennsylvanians Apply for Coverage Through HealthCare.Gov, 2,207 Enroll in October

  1. I’ve used Firefox the whole time and I’ve still not been able to even fully complete my application. I always get some message about the verification system being down. No, I’m not some media goof. I’m actually trying to sign up and use it.

    • Ryan says:

      If you haven’t tried to yet, you should delete your cookies and clear your cache — that worked for me when I was trying to complete the application to sign up for my brother. At least it worked to complete the application, but we still couldn’t get to the enrolling stage.

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