Obamacare enrollment continued to slide off December highs in February with HHS reporting 940,000 people enrolled last month. In addition the percentage of “young invincibles” signing up was the same as in January, just 27 percent. That’s far short of the 38 percent originally expected.
The February enrollment numbers are also important for what they don’t show. Back in September CMS published enrollment targets for each month which anticipated sign ups would follow a particular pattern. Enrollment would be slow at first followed by a big December as the first deadline was reached. Things would drop off in January but then ramp back up in Feb. for a big finish in March.
Here we are in early March and February numbers show no ramping up happened last month. The prediction was that 1.27 million would sign up in February. The reality is more than 300,000 short of that. In other words, we should be accelerating to the finish line right now but instead we seem to be stuck on cruise control. The AP points out that if enrollment remains steady HHS will fall well short of its reduced target of 6 million.
The same slow and steady pace is true for the demographics of those enrolling. By the end of March we were supposed to see around 38 percent between the ages of 18-34. These are the young and presumably healthy folks who pay into the program without receiving much from it. But with only weeks left to go this group makes up just 25 percent of the total. They made up 27 percent of February enrollment, the same as in January.
The story of Obamacare enrollment has been a story of surges. The November surge that never amounted to much, the December surge that did, and the January drop-off that was sold as an ongoing surge. But the big granddaddy surge we’ve heard about for months was always the one taking place at the end of the enrollment period. That final surge, which supporters of the law have been counting on, may still happen. All we can say for certain right now is that it seems to be off to a very slow start.