Obamacare: Will Last-Minute Enrollments Help the ACA?

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As preliminary data rolls in after the December Obamacare deadline, a surge in website visitors and state enrollees is giving a glimmer of hope to those who support the healthcare law. Obama administration officials are saying 2 million people visited Healthcare.gov on Monday, December 23, and 250,000 people called the designated call centers. One article from the LA Times says a similar spike in interest took place on the state websites. On Monday, enrollment in Colorado reportedly grew by 5,000. Another 6,700 signed up in Connecticut, and 25,531 chose coverage in New York.

Elsewhere, the LA Times stated that 29,000 people signed up for healthcare on California’s exchange on Friday, December 20 alone. The total figure of enrollees ahead of the December 23 deadline was over 400,000 according to state officials.  There was no information provided about whether the individuals selecting plans chose a private insurance option, or qualified for Medicaid.

In his year-end press conference on December 20, President Obama said more than half a million people signed up using the exchange in December alone, and since october, more than 1 million people have selected coverage. However, as The Hill points out, even with the surges and deadlines, it is unlikely that enrollment will meet the original goal of 3.3 million by January 1.

The deadline to select a plan has been extended twice in the past week. First, a blanket extension took place, giving everyone an additional 24 hours to sign up for health care moved it from December 23, to December 24. Next, a blog post on Healthcare.gov told visitors that if they tried, and encountered delays on the website, preventing them from signing up for coverage, “we still may be able to help you get covered as soon as January 1.” If the individuals called customer service, a representative may be able to work with them, and help them sign up even though the deadline had passed.

The concern for all states’ enrollment data is that it is dominated by Medicaid enrollment, not private insurance. Forbes analyzed data from the California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Washington exchanges on December 20. Combined, 54 percent of those selecting a plan are between the ages of 45 and 64; 55 percent have chosen a costlier “silver” plan. This indicates that the consumer is willing to pay more for better coverage.

Young, healthy adults are expected to buy the cheaper, “bronze” plans. In California, 18 percent of enrollees fell in the 18-34 age range. Even fewer are selecting the catastrophic plan option, which the administration hoped would increase enrollment for people who have had their plans canceled and with the young. Connecticut’s 2 percent with this plan was the highest, followed by 1 percent in California and Rhode Island. Elsewhere, there were not enough enrollees to scrape together 1 percent for this option.

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