Just How Low Is Enrollment In Obamacare's Federal Exchange System?



The Obama administration has touted high web traffic numbers as evidence of unexpectedly large demand for insurance through Obamacare's exchanges. But it's not clear that many people are actually able to sign up for insurance in the exchanges being run by the federal government.

The administration says that there have been some successes, but won't say how many or in what states. And as I noted last night, news reports so far suggest that almost everyone who has tried to enroll themselves or others in the 36 states where the exchanges are being run federally has been stymied by technology failures. 

So it may be that at this point almost no one has managed to get all the way through the online enrollment process. A report in The Washington Post this morning provides further evidence that the number of people who have completed the enrollment process in the federal exchanges may be very, very low.

Interviews with health insurers, industry consultants, nonprofit groups and people trying to sign up for coverage suggested that the number was very low. Some companies that are offering plans on the federal site said Wednesday that no one had signed up with them.

"Very, very few people that we're aware of have enrolled in the federal exchange," said one insurance industry official, who like many in the industry, spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for possibly offending the Obama administration. "We are talking single digits."

A spokesman for one major Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in a southern state said that, as of Wednesday afternoon, it had not received word from federal health officials of any customers who had completed enrollment in the plan — even though a local news outlet had reported about a man who thought he had signed up. So, plan officials didn't know whether the man's enrollment was incomplete or whether the federal reporting of enrollment was running behind.

The quote from the unnamed insurance official is notable not only because he suggests that the number of successful enrollees is in "single digits," but because the quote was only given "on the condition of anonymity out of concern for possibly offending the Obama administration." So not only is the number likely to be quite low, the insurance official believes that the Obama administration is eager to keep people from knowing that the number is quite low. 

Elsewhere in The Washington Post, another reporter talks to Chad Henderson, a Georgia man who says he successfully enrolled through the federally facilitated insurance exchange. Henderson's contact information was provided to the Post and reporters at other publications by Enroll America, a nonprofit devoted to signing up people for health insurance under Obamacare run by a former White House communications official. A Chicago Tribune reporter contacted a woman in Illinois who enrolled through the federal exchange. He found out about her after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius retweeted the woman's Twitter post announcing her successful enrollment. 

The high number of reports that the federal exchanges are inaccessible, and the limited number of reports of individuals who have successfully enrolled, suggest that very few people have been able to complete the entire enrollment process online so far.

The administration, which has been quick to tout its web traffic figures as evidence that the exchanges are in high demand, could end any uncertainty about enrollment in the federal exchanges by releasing enrollment figures for the federal exchanges. But they haven't yet. Is that because the numbers so far are so low that they would undermine the administration's argument that Obamacare is valuable because it is in high demand?

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  1. The Obama administration has touted high web traffic numbers as evidence of unexpectedly large demand for insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges.

    Demand for webpage != demand for Obamacare.

    1. Furthermore, the numbers they tout are obviously far higher than “unique visitors” and are more likely number of hits — i.e., downloads of pages, scripts, and even images rather than actual registrations.

      1. Stock promoting tricks form the dotcom days.

        1. from

          1. Oh, they formed them too.

      2. Yep. I strongly suspect their numbers also include useless chaff like partial pageloads, pageloads that are completely nonfunctional because of internal errors, and any content delivered via custom 404/500 error pages.

        And, remember, this is what’s happening after three years of development time. And despite the slashing of core functionality.

        1. Don’t forget, at least 25% of those “hits” are assholes from the media either trying to drive up numbers or demonstrate a successful enrollment.

          1. i bet a good half are policy types like me who were kicking tires. i was at a conference yesterday, and it felt like everyone was trying it out. none of them were going to buy, as we all have employer sponsored coverage.

    2. Even without the mandate and everything else, it’s not like, e.g., lots of phone calls to customer service and being put on hold mean that people love the cable company.

      1. Back in my call center days, we were dinged on productivity reports based on the wait times for the callers. Then they moved it offshore and that metric went away for the ‘cheaper’ agents.

        I don’t know where I was going with that, probably just agreeing with you.

    3. I think the website hits are people checking out the site in a similar fashion to those that slow down to see the results of a horrible highway accident. Please, have some respect for the people caught in this bloody mess and just keep driving.

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  2. We are talking single digits

    I take back my comment from yesterday. Brunhilda’s House of Golda Meir Porn probably handles MANY more customers than the exchanges.

  3. You can be sure, and I’m not the first to make this observation, that if the number of those enrolling was high we would have already heard it.

  4. America set free, day three.

    1. Does it count as almost universal health care, if no one can get it?

      1. Universal Failure maybe?

      2. Universally unavailable, yes.

        1. Universal right to get in a damn line and hope someone blesses you.

  5. They’ve finally located the very first person to enroll.
    Too bad he’s a Ukrainian hacker and stole every American’s name/SS#/DOB.
    Good luck with that Alex!

  6. We’ve analyzed the exchange enrollment, sir, and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?

    1. Make it so!

    2. In our moment of triumph?!? I think you overestimate their chances.

    3. You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home!

  7. Has anyone else been able to find any national media coverage about the exchanges today? The first two days, the major outlets reported on the glitches. Today, absolutely nothing.

    God forbid they follow up and see if the government really is fixing the glitch.

    1. Time to report on the obstructionist Republicans!

    2. Today, absolutely nothing.

      Duh, orders came to focus on the Shutdown and WW2 vets being told they can’t visit memorials. You know, the shit that matters


  8. Why would anyone sign up for this mess? I don’t really think there’s any way to prove one is required to sign up. And if they positively DO know I am required to sign up, why don’t they just do it for me?

    1. And if they positively DO know I am required to sign up, why don’t they just do it for me?

      Don’t give them any ideas. I’m almost 100% certain that once it becomes obvious* how broken the exchanges are and how few people are actually signing up under them, they’ll transition to an “opt-out” system.

      *Obvious to them, it’s already obvious to anyone with more than one functioning neuron in their brain.

  9. As of right now I still could not get past selecting my state (Ohio) before being told they were too busy to help.

    1. Did you dial 1-800-FUCK-YOU?

    2. Sorry. It’s 1-800-F1UC-KYO.

      1. I think it’s pronounced as an exasperated Fuck… and the Yo! is a plea for help. Think old school Ice Cube.

      2. They really should’ve put a bit more thought into that. I find it quite hard to believe this is a mere coincidence.

    3. Apparently they can’t even forward me to my state’s page without delay. Pretty pathetic.

  10. Most people who can’t afford or don’t need insurance are not going to buy it. Hell, if medicaide is any indication, most of the ones who are eligible for a subsidy won’t bother to sign up to get it. All this is going to do is stick a bunch of people with a big fine on their taxes. As unpopular as this thing is now, wait until this spring when people see this come out of their tax returns.

    1. Or better yet, wait until someone gets a letter from HHS that says the following-

      Dear ACA Enrollee,

      Due a system malfunction, your personal information -including your Name, DOB, SS# and Medical History- was exposed and you may be at risk of Identity Theft. Please call this number to get enrolled in our ID Theft Protection Services. We aplogize for your convenience.

      Fuck You,


      They’ve already had their first security breach. Happened on the first day.


      1. Dude, I so called that shit.

      2. That is going to happen a lot. And a lot of people are going to buy insurance only to have the IRS fuck up and fine them anyway.

      3. Like the government would ever warn anyone about an identity theft hack.

        1. They do actually, all the time.

          The VA Breach, SAIC, etc. That doesn’t mean they give a shit but it happens all the time.

        2. If we know about it, by policy we notify people.

      4. But that’s not the lovely federal system. Our little frozen version of CA went whole hog. We have our own state system! And the breach wasn’t of individual information but broker information. Still, these exchanges are very juicy targets for some social engineering.

    2. Most people won’t notice that part- they don’t do their own taxes and, if they even bother to look at the return, don’t understand them.

      1. I don’t do my own taxes and quite frankly, I would be hard pressed to understand them given that they’re the length of an average Clancy novel.

      2. They will get it. The tax guy will tell them, “and here is your penaltax”.

    3. Yes, and those fines are not peanuts. I’m not getting near that website, regardless of how high my private rates are hiked. (And I suspect the policy for which I have been paying a reasonable premium in spite of yearly hikes over the past 10 years will now double or triple.) But that’s the evil genius of ObamaNoCare: Contrary to what our supreme leader assured us back in 2009, those of us who are happy with our coverage DO NOT get to keep those policies. Because they have been deemed insufficient under ACA’s arbitrary rules about what comprises “sufficient.” Our insurance companies are now sending us packets?dum dum dum!?outlining the much improved new policies! And when we finally are quoted their rates, the fact that they’ve doubled or tripled will send us screaming into the arms of the exchanges. Where we will discover the costs are about the same, only now you’re in the system. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The only recourse we have is to repeal the ACA.

  11. The quote from the unnamed insurance official is notable not only because he suggests that the number of successful enrollees is in “single digits,” but because the quote was only given “on the condition of anonymity out of concern for possibly offending the Obama administration.”

    That’s called “knowing which side your toast is buttered on”.

    1. “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

  12. Rule number one. Delays over 5 seconds for pages to load are a death sentence on the internet.

    1. They’ve got that. Mine goes to the “we’re busy, please wait” in less than 1 sec. Because there’s nothing behind it.

      1. I tried Virginia (where I used to live) and its been on that page for 5 minutes and counting.

    2. Doesn’t seem to affect H&R.

  13. the whole thing just shows how stupid these people are. Hello, there are already health insurance companies. They make money by selling policies. If people wanted to buy a policy, they would. They don’t need an exchange set up for them to do so. Fuck these people are stupid.

    1. Goddamnit John, I’m sick of your homophobic racist war on women. WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDRUN!?

      1. We can’t worry about them, these exchanges are endangering the police, and as we learned earlier today ‘Officer Safety’ trumps ‘for the children’.

        /insane rambling.

    2. If people wanted to buy a policy, they would.

      Obviously they don’t know what they want and are in need of a nudge.

      1. But who do I ask for permission to buy health insurance and who’s going to tell me which doctor to go to?

        1. Kathleen Sebelius of course! You should know that!

          1. hooray

            at least SOMEONE’S there to give me permission and hand me orders!

            I’m so free!!!!

            1. No Cheering.

              1. I’m so sorry master! (waddles away, chains clanking)

    3. They make money by selling policies. If people wanted to buy a policy, they would.

      But insurance companies making money is inherently immoral. So we need to force people to buy more expensive insurance to prevent that from happening.

    4. They make money by selling policies. If people wanted to buy a policy, they would.

      But insurance companies making money is inherently immoral. So we need to force people to buy more expensive insurance to prevent that from happening.

  14. I hear crickets!

  15. WSJ article

    law student with insurance uses marketplace. is determined to be eligible for Medicaid. goes from buying coverage to receiving free entitlement.

    1. I got sick around the point where they claimed he was “saving” Obamacare by going from funding the company to draining the taxpayer without offsetting anyone else.

      1. Though later they confess:

        So the great success story of ObamaCare’s first day is the transformation of a future lawyer who was already paying for insurance into a welfare case.

        It made me a little better.

      2. let alone the fact that a law student qualifies for Medicaid.

        1. So the good news is that this will cause the Medicare deficit to skyrocket in a matter of months instead of years, thus forcing the hands that be.

          The bad news is that people won’t want to give up their free pony now that they have it and will continue to elect people who promise not to take it away.

          I think we’re fucked either way.

          1. Medicaid — but you’re correct. but Medicare is also fucked, but for other reasons.

            I’ve been talking about the woodwork effect for awhile.
            previously un-enrolled but medicaid eligible who sign up based on the rollout. and they will not be paid for under the 90% federal match that was used to basically bribe the states to sign up. it will destroy state budgets.

    2. This just about killed me:

      “People complain of having to stand in line for hours, often in vain, and many are losing patience with the government’s explanation that unsavory conspirators are to blame for the nation’s problems,” reports the New York Times.

      But enough about Venezuela. Let’s talk about ObamaCare.

    3. but I was told (R) states that wouldn’t expand Medicaid rolls were “actively working against”* Obamacare (because those racist jerks wouldn’t take on unlimited unfunded mandates)

      * I’ve seen this formulation so much lately I’m suspecting Ezra has his listserv back up

    4. I didn’t read the article. Was it Sandra Fluke?

    5. Wait, you can enroll in medicaid in the exchange? Or do they just tell you that you’re “eligible” for medicaid?

      Darn, I knew less about this than I thought.

  16. I dunno, I am privately insured, I spent over $1000/yr. for my kid for insurance and that was WAY before Obamacare stupidity, God only know what it would cost now!

  17. In all seriousness, everything I know about Obamacare has come from media coverage. I have not received anything in the mail, I have not seen any commercials on TV about it, I have not seen any newspaper ads about it (admittedly, I don’t read the dead-tree newspaper often). I’m honestly not sure how I’m supposed to know what’s available.

    1. Well, Pearl Jam, NSYNC, Lady Gaga, and Sarah Silverman are all tweeting about it.

      1. Who?

        1. A has-been band, a has-been boy band, a transsexual, and an unfunny Jew (I know they’re rare, but they do exist).

    2. Followup: I did a little googling and found a newspaper article with a link to the NY state site. I went to it, clicked “Get started”, and was promptly rewarded with an error message about how it’s unavailable because they’ve had millions of visits per day.

      I work in the web technologies field, and this should be pretty embarrassing to the implementers. I don’t know what the back-end technology is, so I can’t say what kind of load it could handle, but this is why you design sites to be as simple and robust as possible and you do load testing before launch. Free web-optimization tip for the NY state gov: it would probably help not to serve all your images over HTTPS.

      1. I’m just sayin’, I’d bet google handles (quite literally) billions of unique visitors per day, and I can’t even remember the last time The Google was down for a full day.

      2. As a NY State Gov IT guy

        I am SOOOOO Glad I don’t work in the IT Cluster that had to handle this crap. It was doomed from day 1.

        NYS Programmers are people whose eyes glaze over when you try to explain how infrastructure and transfer protocols work. They got there with full Computer Science degrees but can’t even keep straight the difference between the web server and the app server.

        Add in a procurement cycle that takes years to process a single request that has a demonstrable ROI, and this was never happening on time.

        1. I did a little more poking around, and I noticed something else: the web server identifies its software as “IBM_HTTP_Server”.

          I remember working with that one – it’s basically Apache with the name scratched off and “IBM HTTP Server” written on it in Sharpie. So that’s actually not that bad…but it strongly suggests two other things:
          1. The back-end technology is WebSphere (because why the hell else would you be using IBM HTTP Server unless you were using WebSphere)
          2. NY State paid a crap-ton of money to IBM for consulting services (because that is how large-scale WebSphere implementations are done).

      3. They need to serve the images over HTTPS so the NSA can’t spy on all the health details.

        1. Are you kidding? That’s a feature, not a bug.

      4. It should have occurred to me earlier, as it does now, that if you have some page elements HTTP and some HTTPS, you get an annoying warning, so that’s probably it…still, there is no reason I can see for the generic front page to be HTTPS-only.

    3. As an employer, I was required to pass out promotional material on it (that told the employees nothing other than how great it was going to be) or be faced with a $100 per employee per day fine.

      This is why I just love having a business license. It means I get to unwillingly participate in this type of shit.

      1. The OMB form I had to hand out had a bunch of bureaucrateese that I’m certain my employees don’t understand.

        Here’s a sample:
        If you have an offer of health coverage from your employer that meets certain standards, you will not be eligible for a tax credit through the Marketplace and may wish to enroll in your employer’s health plan. However, you may be eligible for a tax credit that lowers your monthly premium, or a reduction in certain cost-sharing if your employer does not offer coverage to you at all or does not offer coverage that meets certain standards. If the cost of a plan from your employer that would cover you (and not any other members of your family) is more than 9.5% of your household income for the year, or if the coverage your employer provides does not meet the “minimum value” standard set by the Affordable Care Act, you may be eligible for a tax credit.

        1. My head hurts reading that, and I work in Bureaucrat-speak on a daily basis.

        2. That’s it. You left out the parts extolling how great it is.

          The Marketplace is designed to help you find health insurance that meets your needs and fits your budget….. blah blah blah… You may… You might…. tax credit… blah blah blah

  18. On the bright side, everyone who successfully signs in will soon receive a very special offer from an extremely wealthy Nigerian gentleman desperately seeking his next-of-kin. You just won’t get that kind of personal attention from your greedy corporate insurance companies.

  19. A Chicago Tribune reporter contacted a woman in Illinois who enrolled through the federal exchange. He found out about her after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius retweeted the woman’s Twitter post announcing her successful enrollment.

    you know it’s going bad when you are forced to publicize a single Successful enrollment, as opposed to, you know, data of total enrollment.

  20. Hey, give them a break! It’s really hard to manually replicate what the software is supposed to be doing and then feed the results back through the website.

    1. I just pictured Sebelius in a boiler room whipping monkeys that are furiously typing on keyboards.

      1. Shh. Don’t get Almanian fired up this early in the day.

      2. enough of Almanian’s sexual fantasy.

  21. Just How Low Is Enrollment In Obamacare’s Federal Exchange System?

    low low low low low low low low

    1. When I followed your link, the add on youtube before the video was for “Poo Pourri”

  22. Funny how none of the resident sock puppets have showed up. Almost as if they don’t have talking points to defend this

    1. They’re too busy hitting f5 on those obamacare enrollment pages.

    2. Let me try.

      You have to wait for the page to load to find out what’s on it.

      It’s obviously a failure of the corporations that the government hired.

      Obama can’t be held responsible for everything that the government does.

      Republicans sabotaged the deployment process.

      A classical liberal such as myself understands the need for more patience during product rollouts.

      1. Republicans sabotaged the deployment process.

        Ding ding ding!

        “Well, it would’ve went off without a hitch but shutdown/sekwester”

  23. …”on the condition of anonymity out of concern for possibly offending the Obama administration.”…

    Comrade Obama could call Comrde Beria.

    1. +BrotherNumber1

  24. It would be interesting to see if the contracts (no-bid of course) for the programming were awarded to the DEM’s cronies (i.e. friends, relatives, donors) who likely did not have the horsepower to pull it off but got lots of money in the process.

    1. Interesting?

      More like predictable.

  25. Just sent a message to Enroll America, that ‘non-profit’, asking who funds them.
    You’ll forgive my suspicion that it’s either the US gov’t or some Obama-backing fund.

    1. They list their board of directors: http://www.enrollamerica.org/a…..-directors

      It includes people from Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, among others. You know, totally disinterested parties.

      1. I saw that, and those might well be the funding source, too.
        No answer yet.

  26. one insurance industry official, who like many in the industry, spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for possibly offending the Obama administration

    “Say, that’s a nice insurance company you’ve got there, be a shame if something happened to it.”

  27. I can’t remember whether it was Sebelius or someone else that said it, but one recent talking point that really stuck out over the last few days was something like, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” I momentarily considered what might happen if I were to use that on my boss when there’s a major project deadline fast approaching and I’m tasked with restoring a data server that just crashed hard. I’m pretty sure I’d be called into HR to have a very blunt, one-sided conversation in a heartbeat. This sentiment actually perfectly illustrates the work ethic of our benevolent progressive overlords. No matter how high the stakes may be, they relentlessly cling to the puerile notion that slow and steady always wins the race.

    1. The problem is that somewhere along this “marathon” trail are the administration’s version of the Tsarnaev brothers. Btw, does this ice queen ever crack a smile?

      1. she smiles when she is laughing at you and me

    2. Likely your boss is focused on evil profits.

  28. So, I tested ObamaCare enrollment. I was successful with no glitches. I entered bogus information – home address, birthdate, and Social Security number. If it uses SSN for anything, I foresee problems – from identity theft to someone innocently mistyping their SSN and possibly excluding the real SSN-holder from access.

  29. Coveredca.com is running smoothly for the most part, although I haven’t tried to register. Also, according to their calculator, I qualify for medi-cal! Does that mean I don’t have to buy insurance? Hopefully.

    I took a look at their “health plan benefits comparisons chart” just in case. According to the chart, the maximum out of pocket cost for one person is $6,350. I’m assuming you’ll pay that much if you pretty much live in a hospital. If I only see my primary physician twice a year and go to the emergency room once, the premiums and copays should add up to over 1,000 dollars.

    That’s not bad, but can lower middle class in CA (older, Latino, and already suffering from various diseases) afford to pay 1,500 dollars for healthcare?

  30. People are lined up around the block to buy concert tickets, but the computer is on the fritz and only a few lucky ones have been able to buy tickets.

    Tell me, which is the better indicator of the desire to hear the concert, the number of current ticket holders, or the line around the block?

    1. Tell me, which is the better indicator of the desire to hear the concert, the number of current ticket holders, or the line around the block?

      It’s more like an ice cream truck with a broken refrigeration unit.

      1. But what’s the answer to my question?

        1. You posit a false dichotomy, so the answer to your question is “purple”.

    2. How many of them waiting to log on are the same as those who cause more accidents because they are gawking at accidents on the 405?

      Bet many of them just want to look at the train wreck.

      Speaking as a former California resident who is far happier in a northwestern tier red state. Come and visit, spend money as a ron-resident tourist and then you can leave.

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