Who Are Obamacare’s 7 Million Enrollees?

Enrollments in the insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act soared just above 7 million. That is the number of Americans the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculated would sign up before the federal health care website launched with numerous design flaws and software errors that significantly hampered enrollments. Now the key questions are: What does that number mean and who are the 7 million?

To the Obama administration that number means success, a target hit. As the president said in a statement released late Monday, “now, millions of our fellow Americans have the comfort and peace of mind that comes with knowing they’re no longer leaving their health and well-being to chance. For many of them, quality health insurance wasn’t an option until this year — maybe because they couldn’t afford it, or because a pre-existing condition kept them locked out of a discriminatory system.” In his opinion, “regardless of your politics, or your feelings about the Affordable Care Act, millions more Americans with health coverage is something that’s good for our economy and our country.”

The Affordable Care Act changed the American health care system in more ways than the creation of insurance exchanges, which were designed to allow consumers to comparison-shop for health insurance policies in online marketplaces, where their collective bargaining power theoretically fosters competition and drives down prices. The president pointed out that the health care reform was also meant to make insurance coverage more accessible, at least theoretically, by allowing young adults under the age of 26 to remain covered by their parents’ insurance policy and by the expansion of Medicaid. According to Obama, 3 million young people are now covered by their families’ plans, while “millions more” are covered thanks to states’ voluntary expansion of the Medicaid program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That 7.1 million-covered figure also “doesn’t include the more than 100 million folks who now have better care — who are receiving additional benefits, like mammograms and contraceptive care, at no extra cost,” he added.