Every day, usually about 2 p.m. or so, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services used to host a half-hour-long call on the status of the insurance marketplace. We here at Wonkblog have updated you on what the federal government told us about how Obamacare is going. And, in a bit of a surprise, the folks over in the Obama administration decided to do one of these calls on New Year's Eve. What fun! So, without further ado, here is what we learned today.
2.1 million people have signed up for private coverage through the exchanges. That was the biggest news out of today's conference call, where Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters that 2.1 million have signed up for coverage through Dec. 28. That includes the 1.1 million that the White House had announced this past Sunday, who had enrolled through Dec. 24 on HealthCare.gov. There are also 3.9 million people who have been found eligible for Medicaid.
The Obama administration does not have figures on the demographics of these people. Nor do they know who had a cancelled policy prior to signing up through the exchange, or who has paid their first month's premium for their new insurance policy.
"At this time we don't have that detailed information," Medicare spokeswoman Julie Bataille said, noting that transaction didn't run through the federal government, but rather was a direct payment from the subscriber to their insurance plan.
7,000 people have called a special hotline because they had trouble enrolling by January. A few weeks back, the White House announced a special assistance period for people who tried to sign up for insurance coverage prior to the Dec. 24 deadline. Today, the administration says 7,000 people have called asking for this exemption.
"We will work with them individually," Bataille said, when asked how many people had been granted an exemption (that figure was not available at this point). "Those are all individual conversations that we'll have with the individual."
The administration has also gotten 2,400 queries to a separate phone line, set up in mid-December, meant to serve those who had a health insurance plan cancelled under the health care law.
The administration is sharing call center scripts with health industries. Bataille says the administration is in regular touch with insurance companies, who now have copies of the scripts that customer service agents for HealthCare.gov use when talking to consumers. The administration is also working with pharmacists and doctor networks to prepare for millions gaining coverage that begins on January 1. Both CVS and Walgreens have announced they'll provide transition prescription coverage to those who can show they think they've enrolled in a plan through the exchange, but might not have a card from their insurer quite yet.