HealthCare.gov enrolls 110,000 in November, but falls short of goals
The federally run insurance marketplace and its website are performing better and enrolling four times as many Americans for new insurance following a disastrous rollout this fall, Obama Administration officials reported today. But two months into a six-month enrollment period, the total figures remain far below estimates of how many people are expected to benefit from the law in its first full year of implementation.
More than 110,000 people enrolled in November through HealthCare.gov, which is the public exchange for the federal government and 36 states. That’s compared to just about 27,000 individuals who enrolled through the federal exchange during October, when the website often didn’t function correctly. Another 148,000 people enrolled last month through one of the 14 state-based exchanges. Overall, just over 364,000 people have selected a plan and enrolled during the first two months, according to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services. (The Administration did not provide monthly breakdowns today so figures are based on the difference between total numbers released and initial numbers provided last month.)
HealthCare.gov is “working smoothly for the vast majority of users,” said Mike Hash, the director of the Office of Health Reform at HHS.
The figures come about two weeks before a deadline for enrolling in order to get new insurance coverage by January 1. People can buy insurance into the new year so long as they are signed up by the end of March to avoid a penalty.
The initial enrollment numbers suggest it will be very difficult for the Obama Administration to reach its goal of insuring 7 million more people through the exchanges by the end of March, 2014.
But, Hash said, the government expects a rush of sign-ups near the latter part of enrollment when the threat of a penalty becomes more apparent in consumers’ minds.
“We think we’re on track and we think we will reach the total,” Hash said.
One other surprise in the new report: The percentage of Americans who are submitting applications so far and who qualify for a subsidy or tax credit to help them obtain coverage is far below expected: Just about 26% so far, according to the report.
Another 803,000 Americans are expected to be covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program so far, according to the report. Although the Supreme Court ruled that states do not have to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the Medicaid expansion remains a key component of increasing coverage under the healthcare law.
Obama Administration officials also acknowledged that some people are still having trouble with income verification problems when they try to enroll on the federal site. In some cases, a phone call is needed to solve the problem.
“We know there are more complex situations when people need to talk to someone,” said HHS spokeswoman Julie Bataille. “We are actively working to assist companies with the eligibility process.”
Error rates are down but there are still problems for enrollment data forms sent to the insurance companies.
“We are making sure enrollment is confirmed for people” even if there has been an error in the process, Bataille said. “That is a daily conversation with issuers.”