Obamacare enrollment…is kind of, sort of, working?

November 19, 2013
(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Obamacare is rarely the subject of positive news stories, which makes these two articles all the more surprising. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times both report Tuesday morning on a significant uptick in health law enrollment during November.

From Noam Levey at the Los Angeles Times:

Despite the disastrous rollout of the federal government's healthcare website, enrollment is surging in many states as tens of thousands of consumers sign up for insurance plans made available by President Obama's health law.

A number of states that use their own systems, including California, are on track to hit enrollment targets for 2014 because of a sharp increase in November, according to state officials.

Several other states, including Connecticut and Kentucky, are outpacing their enrollment estimates, even as states that depend on the federal website lag far behind. In Minnesota, enrollment in the second half of October ran at triple the rate of the first half, officials said. Washington state is also on track to easily exceed its October enrollment figure, officials said.

And there is this bit from Sharon LaFraniere and Eric Lipton in The New York Times, who report that the pace of enrollment through HealthCare.gov has just about doubled in November. "As of mid-November, more than 50,000 people had selected an insurance plan — up from 27,000 in the entire month of October, people working on the project said," they write.

That 50,000 figure is obviously still quite short of enrollment projections that expected about 700,000 enrollments by the end of November. But it also suggests that, both in states and the federal marketplace, enrollment is moving at a slightly faster clip.

This is what many health policy experts predicted: The rate of enrollment would grow throughout November and mid-December up until Dec. 15, the last day to purchase coverage that begins on Jan. 1. There would likely be a bit of a lull until late December and early January, followed by more sign-ups in February and especially March, the last month of the open enrollment period.

What they did not expect was a full month where it would be near impossible to purchase coverage through the exchange. And the looming question is whether enough people will sign up over the next four-and-a-half months to recover that lost ground.

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Neil Irwin | November 19, 2013