CBO: One Million Fewer Projected to Enroll in Obamacare in 2014

Prior to the launch of the Obamacare exchanges last October, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 7 million people would sign up for new private insurance plans by the end of then enrollment period. The White House embraced that estimate as a goal. Now the CBO has revised its estimate downward by a million citing problems with technical problems.

In a report published Tuesday, the CBO says “In light of technical problems that impeded many people’s enrollment in exchanges in the first months of the open enrollment period, CBO and JCT have reduced
their estimate of enrollment for the current year from 7 million to 6 million people.”

The report cites total enrollment as of the end of December, which was slightly over 2 million. That was about 1 million below HHS’ expected to be if not for website malfunctions. The new estimate essentially counts October and November as a lost opportunity.

The report does note that an expected enrollment spike in the final month means that it is still possible to reach the original 7 million estimate. However, it is also possible “it is possible that the number will fall short of the current estimate of 6 million.” The CBO report does not seem to have taken into account the potentially significant number of policy cancellations which could be as high as 20 percent.

In addition to dropping the estimate for paid enrollment, CBO also estimates that 1 million fewer people will enroll in Medicaid (and CHIP) plans than previously projected. While total enrollment is expected to be lower in 2014 because of website problems, CBO anticipates “enrollment in exchanges will rise sharply in the next few years–reaching 22 million by 2016.”

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