In congressional testimony yesterday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that when the federal government releases its first set of enrollment totals for Obamacare's insurance exchanges next week, the numbers will likely be "very low." How low is very low?
An report on insurance enrollment in Delaware offers some idea. Delaware is one of the 36 states in which the exchanges are being administered by the federal government through the troubled online portal HealthCare.gov.
And according to the Associated Press, just four people have enrolled in private coverage in the state. Only 31 people in the state have submitted applications—and just 218 have created accounts in the system. That's…not a lot.
Now, Delaware is a small state, with less than a million residents. But the single-digit enrollment total is still just a tiny fraction of the state's uninsured, which, according to HHS, is about 71,000 people. For all practical purposes, Obamacare has resulted in no meaningful impact on the state's enrollment totals so far. And that doesn't even take into account the potential effects of insurance cancellations in the state (provided there were any). That's a pretty miserable result given that the state got $4 million in federal funding to pay community organizations to assist with enrollment.
But, one might say, how much can Delaware really tell us? It's only one state—and it's part of the deeply troubled federal system.
Yes, but it's not the only one struggling to enroll people. Even some states running their own exchanges are still having trouble as well. Hawaii, which is running its own exchange, has had serious trouble with its web system as well and does not appear to have enrolled anyone. Oregon, which delayed key functions of its state-run insurance exchange before the Oct. 1 national launch, still hasn't managed to enroll a single person in private coverage either.
Meanwhile, one big insurer is cutting back expectations for enrollment all over. Humana, which is offering plans in 12 state exchanges, said yesterday that it was cutting its enrollment projections in half, from 500,000 people down to 250,000. Given that the law's supporters say the law will require both a certain amount of enrollment (about 7 million total) as well as a particular demographic mix (about 40 percent of enrollees need to be young, healthy adults) in order to function as intended, this isn't terribly promising news.