House Republican Committee Reports that Only 67 Percent of Obamacare Sign Ups Have Paid First Month's Premium

Whitehouse.govWhitehouse.govOne of the big remaining questions about Obamacare sign up data is how many, out of the 8 million people the administration says have signed up for coverage, have actually paid their first month’s premium. It’s an important question, because people who haven’t paid aren’t enrolled. Non-payment is virtually certain to reduce the administration’s headline enrollment figure somewhat.

House Republicans have asked administration officials for this information, but they’ve generally been met with a shrug, and some deflection. The White House says it doesn’t have that information right now. Insurers do. Maybe you could ask them?

Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee decided to take the White House up on the idea. The Committee sent letters to all the insurers operating in the federal health exchange, which covers 36 states, and asked for some very specific information. How many people have paid their first month’s premium? How many people have not? What age groups do the people who have paid fall into? You can read a complete copy of the letter here.

Last night, the Committee released its findings. Obamacare’s official open enrollment period ended March 31, and as of April 15, the Committee reports, insurers say that only 67 percent of sign-ups have actually paid. And of those who have paid, only 25 percent are the critical “young and healthy” cohort between the ages of 18 and 34.

That really doesn’t look great for the administration. If only 67 percent of the 8 million sign-ups have paid, then that reduces total enrollment down to just over 5 million. And since the administration has stressed that it’s important to have a healthy demographic mix—ideally about 39 percent of enrollees should be between the ages of 18 and 34—the 25 percent figure doesn’t look so great either.

But just as with the administration’s evasive Obamacare reporting, the Committee figures don’t tell the entire story either. For one thing, they only look at enrollment in the federal exchange. That leaves out high participation states like California and New York that ran their own exchanges.

For another, more important thing, April 15 is just too early to measure anything close to a final payment rate. A huge portion of Obamacare exchange sign ups came in the last few days of open enrollment, for coverage that doesn’t begin until the first day of May. More people signed up later in the month, in the law’s special open enrollment period, and in some cases their coverage won’t start until June. Since the first payments aren’t due until the first day coverage starts, or even as long as 10 days after, that means that lots of people who have signed up still have time to pay. The deadline hasn’t arrived yet. And one thing the end of March sign up spike revealed is that when it comes to health insurance under Obamacare, lots of people wait until the very last minute to take action.

In addition, as The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn notes, there are other hints that the payment rate may be higher, or could get there by the time the deadline arrives. Yesterday, for example, health insurer Wellpoint told investors that the payment rate was about 90 percent. Officials in California have said their payment rate is 85 percent. The head of America's Health Insurance Plans, the big health insurance trade group, has said that about 85 percent have paid. And in responding to the Committee, insurers stressed that the information they were providing was not final, and that there were grace periods for many new sign-ups.

Republicans on the Committee are aware that the information they have so far is incomplete, and they are going to follow up with insurers toward the end of May. So we’ll get more information—eventually. But it’s going to take time. The administration could have headed off a lot of this sort of discussion by being more transparent from the start, releasing updates about payment rates, along with sign ups and demographics, and context about deadlines as well. Instead, they stonewalled and deflected. Which is how we ended with a Republican Committee trying to get this information themselves, and a report that at most suggests an eventual possibility of significant non-payment problems, but doesn't demonstrate much of anything right now. For the time being, then, we’re left right back where we started, with no solid, comprehensive information to rely on about how many sign ups have paid.

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  • Rufus J. Fisk||

    Wow....this is sooooooo racist, reporting on this.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Wait. People who want FREE STUFF are deadbeats?

    Whoda guessed?

  • creech||

    I would think the % who continue to pay premiums after, say, four or five months will be a better predictor. Any group that has a monthly payment pledge drive can tell you how the first month is paid pretty enthusiastically but gradually falls off as cars break down, mama wants a new bracelet, or sonny needs a new baseball glove.

  • The Last American Hero||

    This is the key. By the time the elections roll around in November, there should be a better track record to judge. We will have had 6 months of data to examine payment patterns. I'm sure Obama can hardly wait, especially since the big premium hike should come along around October or so.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Well clearly the solution is to let them keep their policies for free. Why does Reason hate Diana Ross?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    67% counts as a win. COUNT IT.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Still technically passing. For all we know, that's what Obama got for grades.

  • UnCivilServant||

    My college would put you on academic probation for one quarter of grades that bad, and toss you if you didn't improve. "Technically passing" wasn't good enough, and they weren't even some hoity-toity 'ivy league' claptrap. Or maybe that was why they actually tossed students who were clearly unable to keep up.

  • C. Anacreon||

    Actually, Ivy League and comparable hoity-toities are more likely to have grade inflation and not be looking at kicking you out for grades (more likely would be a suspension for being in College Republicans). I unfortunately found out too late in my academic career that the more difficult a school is to get into, the easier it is to stay there with passing grades. Lower-rated programs often have a "prove ourselves" attitude that puts more demands on their students than top-rated schools.

  • Carolynp||

    The debate is over.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    It is amusing how much of a hard-on wonks like Ezra Klein have for a Presidency and a policy administered by people who are clearly not running the programs in a wonk-friendly manner. The rollout, implementation and tight control over information belies not a confidently wonky competence in healthcare, but one controlled and administered by politicos interested in creating a smokescreen around what is happening so that the public and experts alike are left unaware of the actual fallout.

    If this is how they are running the public aspects of the program, it is likely that the underbelly of the beast looks much the same (if not worse).

  • John||

    Before he became a shill for Obamacare, Klein was just another college Democrat douche bag at the Kos convention. Klein can never admit this thing is a disaster. His entire career is built on it.

    If this thing doesn't get better, at some point liberals are going to have to turn on it and start pretending it wasn't their idea and they never supported it. When that happens, I think Klein and a couple of others are going to have to go under the bus for the cause. I would imagine Klein realizes this and would like to avoid it.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    For another, more important thing, April 15 is just too early to measure anything close to a final payment rate. A huge portion of Obamacare exchange sign ups came in the last few days of open enrollment, for coverage that doesn’t begin until the first day of May. More people signed up later in the month, in the law’s special open enrollment period, and in some cases their coverage won’t start until June. Since the first payments aren’t due until the first day coverage starts, or even as long as 10 days after, that means that lots of people who have signed up still have time to pay. The deadline hasn’t arrived yet.

    Ah. That answers the question I immediately got from the headline. 67% is over twice as bad as the 85% estimate I kept seeing before.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Damned Lies!

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Let's see. Believe the insurers or the GOP?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    In this case, it's the same thing.

    Like Bush and Obama.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|5.1.14 @ 11:35AM|#
    "Let's see. Believe the insurers or the GOP?"

    Just keep it up, shreek. That ass won't lick itself!

  • John||

    I am sure the Obama people have the real information and it shows how great this is. They are not releasing it and being so evasive about it when asked out of kindness I guess.

  • Sevo||

    Yeah, they don't want to be seen as bragging or anything.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Are the insurers willing to forego their transition payments?

    Didn't think so.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    BOOOOOOSH!

  • Acosmist||

    Remember, because 30 million are uninsured and that should never happen, we should ruin the insurance market such that 67& of 8 million people can possibly get insurance, some of whom lost theirs so really have to be added to that 30 million, and also when we say they have coverage, we mean literally there is an insurance contract, but with a deductible so high they're not actually seeing a penny of that for any actual care.

    And where was I, oh yes, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

  • Acosmist||

    derp, percent not ampersand

  • Sevo||

    "House Republican Committee Reports that Only 67 Percent of Obamacare Sign Ups Have Paid First Month's Premium"

    Yeah,, but Sebilius is now saying that a 66% rate is SUCCESS!

  • XM||

    The insurance company doesn't have monthly enrollment numbers? How many people who signed up in January have made their first payment?

    If "selecting a plan" at the exchange no different than placing an item at the cart at an online store (you didn't commit to pay by entering your credit card information, shipping address) then how many of those who didn't make the first payment actually purchased insurance?

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