The Conversation

Early Obamacare Enrollees Are Older

An analysis published yesterday points out that the people who have successfully enrolled in plans through various state exchanges tend to be over 50:

  • Kentucky's state-run exchange reported that nearly 40% of the estimated 4,631 enrollees in private health plans are older than 55, while 24% of the remaining enrollees are younger than 34;
  • Michigan-based Priority Health said the average age of new enrollees is 51, up from about 41 for plans offered for the current year;
  • WellPoint said most of its enrollees in Connecticut were between the ages of 55 and 64; and
  • Wisconsin-based Arise Health Plan said more than 50% its 150 enrollees are over age 50 (Wall Street Journal, 11/4).
Let's break this down in Kentucky a little bit. Note that the total number who have signed up in Kentucky is nearly 28,000 people. Out of that number only 4,631 bought private plans while the rest enrolled in Medicaid.

Of those 4,631 who bought private plans, 40% (1,852 of them) were over 55 years of age.

Of the remaining 2,779 who bought private insurance, just 667 were under 35.

This means that of the 27,854 people who enrolled in plans in Kentucky, 2.4% were relatively young and (presumably) healthy and paying for their own insurance. Or put another way, 97.6 percent were either over 35 or signing up for a free program.

This matters in two ways. First it shows that even in states where the exchange is working as planned, the "young invincible's" the law was designed to insure are not buying. Since they make up a significant portion of the 30 million uninsured the law was designed to cover that means the law isn't working as intended.

Secondly, the premiums these young and health folks contribute was intended to offset the cost of all the people signing up for Medicaid. Right now the ratio of Medicaid to young sign ups is 40:1 in Kentucky. That's likely not sustainable without greatly increasing premiums. And again, this is in a state where by all accounts the exchange is working.


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