Avalere: Exchange Enrollment Likely To Miss Projected 6M Goal
Total enrollment through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges is likely to increase by only about 1.2 million -- to 5.4 million -- when the open enrollment period ends on March 31, falling short of the Obama administration's goal of six million, according to a new projection from Avalere Health, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports (Millman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 3/12).
New HHS data released Tuesday show that about 940,000 U.S. residents enrolled in the exchanges in February, down from 1.2 million in January and 1.8 million in December 2013. With fewer than three weeks left in the ACA's initial open enrollment period, total exchange enrollment is at 4.2 million, Obama administration officials said (California Healthline, 3/12).
Total Enrollment Goal Shifts in Recent Months
Administration officials and government analysts have suggested different total enrollment goals for the six-month open enrollment period.
During a recent interview with HuffPostLive, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tried to diminish the significance of an earlier estimate that seven million people would enroll in coverage through the exchanges. She said, "First of all, seven million was not the administration. That was a [Congressional Budget Office] prediction," adding that Vice President Biden "has looked and said it may be closer to five to six [million]" (California Healthline, 2/26).
Last month, an analysis accompanying CBO's new annual budget outlook report lowered the agency's total exchange enrollment projection from seven million to six million. CBO analysts pointed to the troubled rollout of the federal health insurance exchange website in fall 2013 for the lower projection (California Healthline, 2/5).
Avalere's Enrollment Projection
According to The Hill's "Healthwatch," Avalere's prediction was based on the first open enrollment period in the Medicare prescription drug benefit program. During that period, 22% of voluntary enrollments took place in the final month.
Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, said that "success of exchanges in 2014 will depend less on the size of the market and more on the risk profile of enrollees." The firm also noted the state-run exchanges in Hawaii, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia are facing difficulties meeting their enrollment goals (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/12).
Obama Admin Remains Confident About Enrollment
According to "Wonkblog," Obama administration officials are continuing to stress that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to enrollment numbers, noting that they are looking to younger, healthier enrollees to help offset coverage costs for sicker, elderly people.
During a House hearing on Tuesday, Sebelius -- when asked how the administration would gauge success of the exchanges -- said, "Success looks like millions of people with affordable coverage, which we will have by the end of March" ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 3/12).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.