04.02.2014 1

Obamacare previously uninsured enrollees off by 4.7 million?

DMVBy Robert Romano

The numbers are in for Obamacare sign-ups on the exchanges in accordance with the April 1 deadline to enroll: 7 million have enrolled.

But apparently, only about one-third were previously uninsured, reported the Los Angeles Times on March 30: “At least 6 million people have signed up for health coverage on the new marketplaces, about one-third of whom were previously uninsured.”

The Times estimate was drawn from “a review of state and federal enrollment reports, surveys and interviews with insurance executives and government officials nationwide.”

If the one-third previously uninsured gaining coverage figure holds up with the most recent sign-ups, that would mean only about 2.3 million of the 7 million did not have coverage last year.

Problem: In May 2013, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that 7 million previously uninsured individuals would sign up on the exchanges, not 2 million or so. That means they may have been off by as many as 4.7 million.

Although, by February 2014 — perhaps because of the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov and the exchanges — CBO had downgraded that estimate to about 6 million. Even then, CBO still appears to be way off.

Because right now, the people most likely to use the exchanges to get new coverage are those who lost their coverage because of the law, not the uninsured Obama championed in his push to adopt the law.

We’ll know more soon. As Talking Points Memo noted, the 7 million “does not include the Monday sign-ups in the 14 states operating their own marketplaces. In addition, the enrollment deadline was relaxed for people having trouble completing the process, so some people could still sign up in the next two weeks.”

How many sign up is not inconsequential, they may very well determine the success or failure of Obamacare.

If more people sign up for health insurance than expected, then health premiums for everyone should be lower than anticipated. But insurance subsidies from the federal government would also be higher.

On the other hand, if enrollment goals fall far short of expectations, then premiums will be much higher, yet subsidies will be lower.

The reason premiums would rise under the lower-enrollment scenario is because Obamacare increases what minimally must be covered under individual and employer plans. The additional enrollees are supposed to offset the higher costs of plans. If they don’t show up, then all bets are off.

To make the books right, perhaps ultimately the Obama administration will just start auto-enrolling unwilling “customers” to meet its Soviet-style Gosplan projections.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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