Early Federal Exchange Enrollment Lower Than Expected, Sources Say
As of last week, slightly fewer than 50,000 U.S. residents have enrolled in health insurance plans through the federal health insurance exchange, according to two people familiar with internal government data, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Since its launch on Oct. 1, technical glitches and design problems with the online marketplace -- at HealthCare.gov, which serves residents in 36 states -- have caused the portal to crash several times for hours at a stretch, preventing consumers from completing coverage applications.
According to the Journal, the sources said that private insurers have received enrollment data for between 40,000 and 50,000 consumers who used HealthCare.gov, or about one-tenth of the administration's initial enrollment goal for the federal exchange. The sources noted that the data reflect information sent directly by the website to insurers and exclude those who used the site to enroll in Medicaid.
On Monday, HHS spokesperson Erin Shields Britt declined to confirm the numbers cited by the Journal's sources, noting that officials still expect most people to sign up later.
Shields Britt said, "We have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time, just as was the experience in Massachusetts, where only 0.3%, or 123 people paying premiums, enrolled in the first month." She added, "And, as we have said, the problems with the website will cause the numbers to be lower than initially anticipated" (Weaver et al., Wall Street Journal, 11/11).
How HHS Will Calculate Enrollees
Meanwhile, an administration official on Monday confirmed that the federal enrollment data will include individuals who have already purchased coverage, as well as individuals who have selected their plans but not made a payment, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.
The official -- who asked to be unidentified -- said, "In the data that will be released this week, 'enrollment' will measure people who have filled out an application and selected a qualified health plan in the marketplace."
In contrast, insurers do not consider a consumer as an enrollee until they have submitted a payment.
The official said the administration intends on releasing data on such consumers because that is where the typical consumer's interaction with the federal website ends. According to "Wonkblog," insurers -- not the federal government -- are responsible for collecting the first month's payment from consumers (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/11).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.