106K Selected a Health Plan Through Federal Health Exchanges
On Wednesday, the Obama administration released data that show 106,185 U.S. residents selected health plans in the first month of open enrollment through the state and federal health insurance exchanges, the Sacramento Bee reports (Cadelago/Pugh, Sacramento Bee, 11/13).
To calculate the figure, HHS used both state and federal exchange data for private coverage from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2. The federal estimate includes people who have submitted a payment for their coverage, as well as those who have selected a plan but have not yet paid for it.
That method has encountered criticism. Robert Zirkelbach, spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, noted that the insurance industry does not consider an individual as enrolled in a plan until he or she has submitted a payment (Stolberg/Craig, New York Times, 11/13).
Overall the enrollment figure was significantly lower than the 500,000 U.S. residents administration officials had predicted would enroll in coverage. In May, the Congressional Budget Office estimated seven million people would sign up for coverage during the six-month open enrollment period.
According to the figures, the majority of new enrollees -- 76,319 -- signed up in 11 of the 14 states that are running their own exchanges (Goldstein/Kane, Washington Post, 11/13). Meanwhile, 26,794 selected or enrolled in a plan using the problem-plagued federal health insurance exchange website.
Overall, 846,184 applications -- covering slightly more than 1.5 million U.S. residents -- had been created through the state and federal online marketplaces; however, not all account creators had selected a plan (New York Times, 11/13).
The data also show that 396,261 U.S. residents applying for coverage through the exchanges were determined to be eligible for Medicaid (Radnofsky/Ante, Wall Street Journal, 11/13).
White House Officials, Supporters Discuss Numbers
During a conference call, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stressed that the numbers show the "marketplace is working [and] people are enrolling" (Eilperin, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 11/13).
White House officials said the number of applications shows people are interested in the exchanges, and they expect enrollment numbers to increase as the federal website's glitches are resolved (Wall Street Journal, 11/13).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement cited Massachusetts' health reform implementation as proof that enrollment figures will pick up over the next five months, noting that enrollment initially was slow in the state.
Meanwhile, Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union, used the figures to criticize opponents of the law. She said, "Today's numbers … show that in states where governors, health care providers, faith leaders, labor and business are working together, the law is working and saving lives." She added, "Where obstructionism and foot-dragging rule the day, hard-working Americans are being left behind" (Halper, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/13).
Opponents, GOP Lawmakers Ramp Up Attacks
Several Republican lawmakers -- including Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Reps. James Lankford (Okla.), Lee Terry (Neb.) and Tom Marino (Pa.) -- took to Twitter to mock the enrollment figures, The Hill's "Twitter Room" reports.
Cruz noted that enrollment was lower than the 108,713 people who attended the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Cowboys Stadium, while Lankford wrote that the figure is well below the Obama administration's original goal.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also used Twitter to connect the low enrollment figures to Obama's promise that individuals who like their policies would be able to keep them (Shabad, "Twitter Room," The Hill, 11/13). In a statement, Boehner said the numbers "underscore the urgent need for President Obama to allow people to keep the plans they have and like."
HHS Pressed for More Data
Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.) in a statement called on the Obama administration to release "real data, including who is signing up, what kind of coverage they are getting and what the risk pool looks like" (Attias/Ethridge, CQ Roll Call, 11/13).
On Wednesday, Sebelius said her department would release the expanded data by the end of the year. She noted that HHS released the combined data to provide an early picture of how the enrollment process was progressing (Easley, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.