Obamacare "Enrollment" Totals Don't Tell Us How Many People Have Actually Enrolled



After weeks of refusing to reveal health plan enrollment totals through the health insurance exchanges launched in October, federal officials released Obamacare "enrollment" numbers for the first time this afternoon. Except that they aren't real enrollment numbers.

According to the release, 106,185 people have "enrolled and selected a Marketplace plan" from either a state-run exchange or the federally facilitated exchange system operating in 36 states.

The important words to notice in that sentence are "and selected."

As a companion report on exchange activity by an office within the Department of Health and Human Service explains, the 106,185 figure represents the number of "plan-eligible persons" who "have already selected a plan by clicking a button on the website page." 

That's really just an awkward way of saying that the report counts all the people who have done the equivalent of moving a plan into their online shopping carts—regardless of whether or not they have actually paid their first month's premium yet. Given that those who don't pay won't be covered, this means that the true enrollment number so far is almost certainly significantly lower.

The report does provide a sense of how much the federal exchange network has struggled. Of the 106k plan selections, just 26,794, or about 25 percent, came through the federal exchange system, which includes Florida and Texas, two key large states where the administration has indicated that enrollment is critical to the law's success.

The report's state-by-state breakdown of plan-selection totals also offers some hints about the difference between the number of people who have taken the step of "clicking a button on the website page" and the number of people who have fully enrolled. For example, the HHS report lists 97 people as having selected a plan in the state of Delaware, one of the 36 states relying on a federal exchange, between October 1 and November 2. But the Associated Press reported last week that Delaware's federally funded marketplace guides have successfully managed just four total enrollments in the state.

Even the "selection" number doesn't bode well for the law's success at getting people covered. Before the launch of the exchanges, administration officials expected that about 500,000 people would enroll in private coverage through the exchanges during October.

So we learned something from this release. But we didn't learn how many people had actually enrolled. 

NEXT: Hacker Jeremy Hammond Faces Up To 10 Years in Prison

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. We learned the maximum possible who have enrolled, which is anemic.

  2. “So we learned something from this release.”
    I’m guessing “we” does not include the folks who foisted this shit-pile on us.

    1. Oddly enough, I suspect that they never received cancelation notices… Because their stellar healthcare plans were somehow.. “?ber-compliant”. I’m assuming that Boehner’s insurance covered maternity, and PAP smears, and Pelosi has comprehensive prostate coverage…

      1. The shame of it is most of those who should be looking out for the people are in a position that they could well be self insured. What does any of this mean if you hold one of the most powerful offices in the Country?

        Those who say Pelosi and Reid should have what we have fail to grasp they go home at night laughing about the idiots out there who can not afford to deal with few hundred grand in medical bills. And what they can say tomorrow to get their votes.

    2. Hey, don’t be closed minded. Sebellius said she’s learned that two weeks wasn’t enough time to test the system…hold on a sec, my bleeding eyeballs are making it hard to type.

  3. Delicious

  4. This enrollment fiasco doesn’t worry the Dems all that much. What should worry us all are the cancelled plans. That’s the most immediate and dangerous obstacle going into the midterm elections, which is the reason for Feinstein’s “knee-jerk, DO SOMETHING” legislative proposals. It’s not going to be the original ACA that does us in; it’s going to be the convoluted mess it becomes when all the little “fixes” have been installed.

    1. Oh man, come on, you must be one of those Teapublicans who can’t admit that a plan that covers less, costs more, limits choice, and has a higher deductible, is just plain better for you. Get some edumencation, bagger!

      1. If it really did cost less…

      2. It’s like he is anti-science or sumtin!

  5. I think this number is designed to delay the Friday drop-dead date that twitchy Dems have thrust at the White House before they start voting on those magical “Grandfather the No Longer Existent Plans” bills.

    I think. Anyway, let’s see what happens come Friday.

    1. IOW, they’re ready to admit that Obamacare is unworkable and unfixable? Because without huge subsidies from folks who are going to pay more for less, that’s the deal.

      1. Actually, I don’t think they’re ready to admit it. I think they’re like a terrified pregnant teenage girl who thinks she’ll get less pregnant, not more, if she puts off telling her parents.

  6. The whole “wave a magic wand and the cancelled plans miraculously reappear” thing shows an astonishing ignorance of insurance and regulation.

    Those plans, for the most part, can’t be offered until they are approved by the State Department of Insurance (naturally, regulation varies by state, but this is generally true). Who knows what the lag time is on that, but you can be sure that the insurers have made their filings with the states already about what kinds of plans they will offer for 2014, and the cancelled plans aren’t on the list.

    Even if the bill is signed into law tomorrow, those plans can’t be “reinstated” for 2014 until they are approved by state regulators. And that ain’t gonna happen in time for people to re-enroll in them before January 1.

    1. Reminds me, in fact of an Iron Law:

      The less you know about something, the easier it looks.

      1. “Bagpipes can’t be THAT hard to play….”

    2. … if the bill is signed into law tomorrow, … then it will be the insurers who have failed the public.

      See, that’s called slight of hand.

  7. Will it tell us how many ‘enrollees’ are getting dumped into medicaid? Because I hear tell that it’s a large majority of the enrollees here in the PRM.

    1. WOOO! Single Payer?… FTW!

  8. I’m afraid the “Pinko Flag” is flying at half-staff in my camp tonite


  9. Very interesting. I suspect the fallout rate between those who have selected a plan and those who actually pay will be larger than expected also. Say 26,500 actual people paying something (I am figuring 50% intend to pay and half of them will be able to pay when the time comes), and about 400k new medicaid people……………

    Assuming the real cost per new person is about $4,00.00/year, each of the people who signed up should pay about $64,377/year to make this a neutral budget item. What a bargain!

    Thanks OBAMA!

    1. Opps, $4,000.00 not $4,00.00…

  10. Boy is it hard being a liberal today.

    Every single one of my conservative/libertarian friends are throwing tomatoes at me.

    They keep bringing up Obama.

    I’m a true liberal, and I voted for Gary Johnson because I found him to be far more liberal than Obama.

    Yet, everyone calls Obama a liberal. He’s crappy :<<br /
    But I’m still keeping my head up. I can only imagine that this country will never ever re-elect another black dude in my lifetime.

    Obama was terrible.

    1. Barak is the “David Dinkins” of the USA.

    2. “Boy is it hard being a liberal today.”

      An endangered species… Liberal=/=Progressive.

      “Every single one of my conservative/libertarian friends are throwing tomatoes at me.”

      Get better friends.

      “They keep bringing up Obama.”

      So does everybody else, one way or another…

      “I’m a true liberal, and I voted for Gary Johnson because I found him to be far more liberal than Obama.”


      “Yet, everyone calls Obama a liberal. He’s crappy “

      Yeah… that guy sux…

      “But I’m still keeping my head up. I can only imagine that this country will never ever re-elect another black dude in my lifetime.”

      I don’t see why America would hold all Af-Americans responsible for Obama sins..

      “Obama was terrible.”

      Yeah, agreed… he sux..

    3. Nice to know there’s still a few of you around.

    4. I can only imagine this country will never ever re-elect another black dude in my lifetime.

      I hope we never elect another minimally-qualified black man to the office. I wouldn’t worry too much though, there are plenty of other minimally qualified (and relevant) minorities that we can elect to office.

      No joke, I actually think black candidates (with a proper career behind them) from here on out will have an easy task. It’s the next unqualified minority ideologue who wants to etch their name in the history books that I worry about.

      Remember,this is a historic presidency.

  11. Roll with the punches dude. Roll with em!


  12. Shark Sandwich

  13. What I want to know, is wheen the deadline rolls around, will the penalty be applied to those who CAN’T sign up?

    1. I suggest there might be an entire year of case law built around this exact concept.

  14. With Bush, truth was always an option. With Obama, it never is.

  15. According to report released by the Federal government, 106,185 plans have been effectively added to someone’s shopping cart, not actually purchased.

    A well regarded and frequently cited study by the Baynard Institute (http://baymard.com/lists/cart-abandonment-rate) takes the average of 22 website sales companies’ reports of “shopping cart abandonment” reports an average 67.44% of all shopping carts are abandoned without completing the sale.

    Using that value, of the 106,185 plans reported, 71,611 of these plans are in abandoned carts, and only 34,574 plans have actually been sold.

    1. Which is coincidentally within striking distance of what the WSJ reported (40-50k). Figure the abandonment rate may be lower for people who actually got through the labrynth. Suspect they took their numbers from the evil insurance companies, which is why they may hold water.

    2. Then factor in that the people purchasing these plans are likely either in distressing circumstances to begin with, or have too little disposable income to by insurance in the free market. I predict that when it is time to make payment those 35,574 plan will shrink by another 50% to 75%. Life will get in the way and when it is a choice between cable TV, cell phone, or a Red box movie that the insurance payment will many times be the lower priority.

      So 35,574 becomes 17,787 or even 8,894……

      8,894 / 7,000,000 0.127% So, only 99.873% to go!

      And the cost to date is about $1 billion.

      This madness needs to end and end soon. The waste of resources and the negative effect on the economy and stressed job market is intentional pain inflicted against the American people for no possible good reason. If Mr. Obama can not be an American or even a Man,swallow his ego, and end this thing then we, the people, need to do it for him. Soon because the damage continues.

  16. Mainstream media headline (one year from now)…

    “Obamacare taxpayer costs far below estimates.”

    Then below in the article…

    “Obamacare has been a huge success providing active participants with unlimited free healthcare. At an average cost of only $10 per taxpayer this year, the $3 billion investment in the lives of those who were unable to previously obtain healthcare. Democrats are heralding the news a triumph of government planning and expressed jubilation that the costs have been far below all estimates from a year ago.”

    Then in the fine print on page 13…

    “Conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Libertarians claim that the $3 billion to cover the 5000 active participants (for an average cost of $600,000 per participant) is wasteful spending. Liberal group, angered by the conservative viewpoint, have been ablaze on twitter expressing, ‘Don’t you think it is awful that they can be so cruel as to want to prevent people from getting healthcare?'”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.