November 15, 2013

ACA’s First-Month Enrollment Figures Fall Far Short Of Expectations

The White House on Wednesday released the first official figures for enrollment under the Affordable Care Act since the law’s online insurance marketplaces opened October 1. While no one expected high numbers, mainly due to ongoing and well-publicized problems with the websites, the news still saw nearly eight minutes of airtime across all three nightly news broadcasts as well as prominent placement in many of the nation’s major newspapers. Moreover, the coverage, with few exceptions, is decidedly negative, with many pointing out that the tally – just over 100,000 sign ups – is bad news for the Administration, which was aiming for 500,000 in the first month and seven million by March.
In the lead segment for ABC World News, Diane Sawyer said that in regards to the “troubled healthcare website,” following the “‘glitches’ and the apology from the President…we learned a stark number, how few Americans actually signed up on that federal site.” Jonathan Karl reported that “during the first month just 26,000 people were able to select health insurance through the Federal website or over the phone, a stunningly low number,” meaning that “Obamacare is way behind the Administration’s goal of…the seven million they hope to enroll by March.”
Brian Williams, on NBC Nightly News, said the enrollment numbers released by the Administration “confirm the new health insurance program is in big trouble.” On the CBS Evening News, Major Garrett reported that “the White House said for weeks these enroll numbers would fall short of expectations and they have.” According to Garrett, “More disturbing for the Administration, the ratio of Obamacare customers is currently heavily tilted toward those receiving insurance entirely funded by the government,” Medicaid or CHIP, “four times the number who have signed up for private insurance.”
In a front-page article, the New York Times (11/14, A1, Stolberg, Craig, Subscription Publication) breaks down the figure: in total “just over 106,000 people picked health plans in the first month of open enrollment,” a number “far lower than the Obama administration initially estimated would sign up during that period.” Moreover, “the bulk of the new enrollees — roughly three-fourths — signed up through the 14 state-run exchanges,” according to CMS data. Indeed, “76,391 enrolled through state marketplaces…while 26,794 signed up through the federal exchange.”
The AP (11/14, Alonso-Zaldivar, Kellman) reports that on Wednesday, the Administration “plant[ed] a paltry number on a national disappointment.” The AP notes that after “adding in enrollment of more than 79,000 in the 14 states with their own websites, the nationwide number of 106,000 October sign-ups was barely one-fifth of what officials had projected – and a small fraction of the millions who have received…private coverage cancellations as a result of the federal law.” Even more troubling, the AP notes that “the final number…would be even smaller if it counted only those who finalized their enrollment by actually paying their first month’s premium.”
McClatchy(11/14, Pugh) notes that the White House “has sought to lower expectations for weeks,” and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney “said in a briefing before the numbers were released that ‘I promise you that no one will be satisfied with the numbers, because they will be below what we sought prior to the launch.’” On its front page, the Washington Post (11/14, A1, Branigin, Kliff, Somashekhar) adds that “the figures were released amid continuing political recriminations” over the Affordable Care Act.
USA Today(11/14, Kennedy) reports that HHS Secretary Sebelius nevertheless “touted the overall level of interest in buying health insurance,” saying, “Even with the issues we’ve had, the marketplace is working, and people are enrolling.” The Wall Street Journal (11/14, Radnofsky, Ante, Subscription Publication) quotes Sebelius as saying, “There is no doubt the level of interest is strong. We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months. They’re also numbers that will grow as the website,, continues to make steady improvements.” But on Wednesday, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, noted that “even if this data was an accurate picture, the administration would need to enroll 68,000 people per day to meet their year-end goal. However, the website isn’t even designed to handle that much traffic and is currently capable of only handling less than half that much.”
The Daily Caller (11/14) notes that the report from Sebelius “did not say how many of the 106,185 have confirmed their choice with an insurance company, or paid their first premiums, which are due Dec. 15,” and “also did not describe the average monthly premiums of the selected plans.”
According to the Huffington Post (11/14, Young), “The disappointing results…underscore the fragility of the new marketplaces and the urgent need for the Obama administration to get reliably functioning by the end of this month.” However, the Huffington Post notes that “an additional 975,407 people have completed the application to determine whether they can receive subsidies and now have only to choose a health plan,” while “more than 396,000 people using the exchanges have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.”
The Los Angeles Times (11/14, Levey) says the numbers “underscored damage from the botched launch of the law and gave critics new fuel in their effort to roll it back.” In an analysis piece, USA Today (11/14, Madhani) says the data released Wednesday “offer perhaps the grimmest picture yet of what President Obama faces as he tries to breathe life into his troubled health care law.”
A handful of lawmakers, mostly Republican, reacted to the news Wednesday. The Washington Times (11/14, Howell) quotes House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy as saying, “While there are still questions about whether these individuals have actually purchased a plan or not – these numbers are staggeringly low and are dramatically being outpaced by the millions of Americans who are losing their plans because of the law, despite the president’s promise they would not.”
Politico (11/14, Cheney, Millman, Haberkorn) reports that on Wednesday, many Congressional Republicans “pointed out that the sign-up numbers are puny compared with the millions of Americans who are receiving cancellation notices and losing the health plans that the president promised they could keep.”
Covered California Tops State-Based, Federal Exchange In Enrollment. In a bit of positive news, the New York Times (11/14, Goodnough, Subscription Publication) reports California’s state-based marketplace, Covered California, has not only “enrolled more people than any other state-run exchange,” it has also topped “the federal exchange serving 36 states, which has been paralyzed by technological failures.” According to officials, “about 2,000 people are enrolling in private health plans daily through California’s exchange.”
In its second story, the CBS Evening News noted that at the current pace, it would take Covered California “more than a year and a half to reach” its goal of 700,000 sign-ups by April 1, but the exchange’s director said Wednesday that “since November 1, 2000 people a day are signing up and that is double the pace of October.”
Also reporting on California’s enrollment so far are the Los Angeles Times (11/14, Terhune, Brown), another piece in the Los Angeles Times(11/14, Terhune), The Hill (11/14, Viebeck) “Healthwatch” blog, the National Journal (11/14, Ritger, Subscription Publication), the Bakersfield Californian (11/14), the Sacramento (CA) Business Journal (11/14, Robertson, Subscription Publication), and the AP (11/14, WIlliams, Blood).
Other state-specific enrollment figures are reported by the Texas Tribune (11/14, Aaronson), the Houston Chronicle (11/14, Hines), and the AP (11/14) in Texas, the Bergen (NJ) Record (11/14, Diskin, Williams) and the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger(11/14, Livio) in New Jersey, the AP (11/14, Gutman) in West Virginia, the Detroit Free Press (11/14, Spangler, Erb) in Michigan, the Toledo (OH) Blade (11/14) and the Cleveland Plain Dealer (11/14) in Ohio, the Hilton Head (SC) Island Packet (11/14, Holleman) in South Carolina, the AP (11/14), the Orlando (FL) Sentinel (11/14, Jameson), and the Palm Beach (FL) Post (11/14, Green) in Florida, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/14, Teegardin) in Georgia, the Seattle Times (11/14, Landa) in Washington state, the Indianapolis Star (11/14, Groppe) in Indiana, the New Orleans Times-Picayune (11/14, O’Donoghue) in Louisiana, the Arkansas Times (11/14, Brantley) in Arkansas, the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch (11/14, Martz) in Virginia, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (11/14, Nixon) and the Allentown (PA) Morning Call (11/14) in Pennsylvania, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (11/14, Lambrecht) in Missouri, the St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press (11/14, Snowbeck) in Minnesota, and the Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (11/14, Stewart, Canham) and the Deseret (UT) News (11/14, Leonard) in Utah.

Source article: Bulletin Healthcare