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New Enrollment Figures Show Obamacare is Not on Track

Even with a big final bump like the one in Massachusetts, Obamacare will not reach its goal of 7 million. In fact, Obamacare would need a similar final surge each month for the next four months to get there. 

Wednesday the Obama administration released its second round of enrollment figures. The results were a disappointing 365,000. Despite this, HHS maintains they are still "on track" to reach their goal of 7 million by April 1st. An HHS spokesperson cited what happened in Massachusetts to defend this claim.

"We’re now only two and a half months into a six-month open enrollment period, and based on the experience of that in Massachusetts, we expect that a bulk of enrollees will occur at the end of the open enrollment period" HHS's director of the office of health reform told ABC News.

The final surge in enrollment in Massachusetts has taken on great importance as the low numbers of enrollees have been revealed. But even with a surge just like the one in MA, Obamacare is unlikely to meet its stated enrollment goal of 7 million.

Let's look at the actual numbers in Mass. Enrollment was light the first month because the PR effort didn't start until three weeks into the month. But then enrollment started climbing. After the 2nd month, enrollment was over 4,100 people, roughly 10 percent of the year-end total. After the 3rd month the total was closer to 25 percent of the year-end total.

Enrollment kept growing at a steady pace and there was a surge at the end which accounted for 20 percent of annual enrollment. That surge is the one the HHS spokesperson is citing.

Now let's examine Obamacare:

  • The administration's goal is 7 million enrollees by April 1st.
  • A 20 percent final surge would equal 1.4 million people. Let's assume HHS will get that in March 2014.
  • Total enrollment for October and November was 365,000.
  • If we add that to the figure we're projecting for March, we get 1.76 million out of three months (Oct., Nov. and March 2014).
  • That leaves three months, Dec., Jan. and Feb., in which we still need to accumulate 5.24 million enrollees (7 million minus the 1.76M we've already banked).
  • 5.24 million divided by 3 is 1.74 million. So in order for HHS to reach the goal it needs 1.74 million in December, then again in January and once more in February.

Another way of putting this is that HHS needs the equivalent of Massachusetts final surge (about 20 %) every month from December until March to meet its enrollment goal. Obviously that's not what happened in Massachusetts.

That's not to say it's impossible. Remember, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million people have lost their insurance. Presumably most of them will attempt to replace it before April. So we really ought to see a big surge in enrollment at some point very soon.

But even if Obamacare enrolls one million people each month in Dec., Jan. and Feb., quadruple what we saw in November, that would only bring us to 3.365 million by the end of February. To achieve the goal of 7 million the administration would need a final surge of 3.6 million, more than 50 percent of the total in its final month. Anything is possible, but that's not how it happened in Massachusetts.

What's likely to happen next is the administration will announce they are extending the enrollment period by one or perhaps two more months. This has already been rumored and some of the delays they've made suggested they were making room for this change. That will give them a fighting chance to make up for all the lost ground in October and November. Still, to claim they are "on track" at this moment is more fantasy than reality.


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