The Conversation

Obamacare Enrollment Light -- in States with Working Exchanges!

After the announcement of the latest enrollment figures this week, health insurance expert Bob Laszewski examining enrollment figures in the states where website complications have been far less catastrophic than at the federal level.

"In states where the exchange has been running at least adequately for many weeks now, the enrollment numbers are far from what I would have expected" Laszewski writes. He then proceeds to examine enrollment figures in four states--California, New York, Washington and Kentucky--compared to estimates of the number of "subsidy eligible" individuals in each state. These are people who can get a subsidy on insurance by buying through the exchange, so they should be the most motivated buyers.

I took the figures Laszewski offered for each state and created this graph:

The red bars estimate the number of people eligible for a discount by purchasing insurance over the exchange. (The estimates come from this Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report.)

As the green bars show, even states with working exchanges have a long way to go. Kentucky is actually doing the best of the four states considered. With 13,000 enrolled out of 132,000 who are subsidy eligible, it is almost at 10 percent.

Of course, not everyone who purchases insurance on the exchange will get a subsidy. As a rough estimate, you could double the red bar in each state to represent people who could buy insurance on the state exchange without a subsidy. Obviously that makes the current enrollment figures appear even worse.

"The rest of the states are either doing no better or are doing much worse" Lawzewski writes. He does allow that the December deadline (for coverage beginning next year) could result in a huge last minute surge. He uses a church metaphor, "No one is in the pews 15 minutes before but they all come in the last 5 minutes."

Nevertheless he concludes "in the states that haven't had big computer problems, the only thing we can say so far is that the church is pretty empty."


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