How Many People Will End Up Enrolled Under Obamacare? We Don't Know—and It May Be a While Before We Do



After a dropping to a slower-than-projected pace in February, the rate of private plan sign-ups under Obamacare appears to have picked up significantly in March. Administration officials say that sign-up totals hit 5 million by March 17, meaning that about 800,000 people had signed up in the first 17 days of the month. That's nearly as many as the 940,000 individuals who signed up in February. There are some indications that the number of sign-ups each day has increased since then, although it's hard to say by how much.

What this means is that the law is probably on track to see as many sign-ups in March as it did in December, the month with the highest number of sign-ups so far, and perhaps more. There were 1.8 million sign-ups in December. If March matches that number, then we'll end up with a total of about 6 million sign-ups by the end of the month—equaling the revised projection of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Depending on how heavy sign-up traffic is during is during the final few days of the month, the final number could be somewhat higher. Relying on daily-rate calculations, Bloomberg View's Megan McArdle* projects about 6.22 million at the high end; other projections are even higher. 

No matter what, though, it now seems likely that the final totals will match or beat the CBO's latest projections—at least, that is, if you're looking strictly at sign-ups.

The problem, as always, is that the administration's sign-up totals don't give us a firm hold on how many people have actually enrolled, because many of the people who are counted as signing up have only selected a plan using the online system; not everyone who has selected a plan has gone on to pay the first month's premium. Nor do the administration's numbers give us any sense of how many people who end up paid and covered stay that way in subsequent months.

Right now, however, our understanding of how many people who have selected a plan and then completed the enrollment process is somewhat weak. Multiple reports from January and February suggest that about 20 percent of sign-ups never submit a payment and don't end up covered.

But that's a rough approximation based on early reporting from a handful of insurers. It's not systematic. We don't know if payment rates have increased or decreased over the last month, or if people who select a plan in the final surge are more or less likely to make a payment. We don't have hard data from every insurer or state. Mostly, what we've got are solid but scattered news reports relying largely on insurance industry insiders.

So the only thing we can be reasonably sure about is that the final enrollment rate will be significantly lower than the final sign-up tally. It might be 20 percent lower, but it also might be 16 percent, or 22 percent. When you're dealing with 6 million or more sign-ups, the difference could be substantial.

How long will it be before we get all of this sorted out? No one really knows.Solid numbers on paid enrollment at the end of March will exist, but they may be scattered amongst the insurers. The administration has not released any information on paid enrollments at all so far, and it's not even clear what's being collected. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has indicated they do not have that information right now, but earlier this week, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) accused HHS of withholding that information; insurance industry sources have also suggested that the administration has more information than has been revealed so far. (If the administration does know, and has chosen to stay mum, then that probably suggests the non-payment rate is on the higher side.) The special extended enrollment period announced yesterday may give the administration an excuse to hold off on collecting and reporting final numbers even longer.

So even though we can expect to see March sign-up totals fairly soon—and may get a milestone announcement of 6 million sign-ups in the next few days—we still won't know the true number of genuine enrollments. And it may be a while before we do. 

Update: According to the White House, total sign-ups have just crossed the 6 million mark

*…who is my wife. 

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  1. Man, I wish I could start an online business where sales and success is measured by how many people put items in their shopping car rsther than actual purchases.

    1. Amazon did it.

      During the early web days they actually monetized “eyeballs” and page views.


      (1999 CNBC)

      1. was shreek the idiot who thought a rise in stock price was injected directly into a company’s bank account? good times…

        1. Hey, I survived with my Datek account, you bastard. They didn’t though.

        2. PRX|3.27.14 @ 1:12PM|#
          “was shreek the idiot…”

          Whatever idiocy you’re asking about, that slimy turd has done it at least once, probably more times. And then lied that he never did anything of the sort.
          The shame of it is that he hasn’t died of his own foul odor.

      2. Re: Peter Caca,

        During the early web days they [Amazon] actually monetized “eyeballs” and page views. UP $40 TODAY ON RECORD CLICKS!

        “They”? Who is “they” in that case? Amazon, or a Fed-stimulated Wallstreet?

      3. And that worked out so well….

      4. And the people who bought into that nonsense used their own money to do so without having a gun pointed at them.

  2. Is anybody tracking people who show up for a doctor’s appointment only to find out they have no coverage?

    Because that will be a source of endless amusement.

    1. It’ll be the opposite problem:

      Lots of coverage but no doctor appointment for 8 months.

  3. 50,000 households started #CoveredCA health insurance applications yesterday – our highest number yet.

    ? Covered California (@CoveredCA) March 26, 2014

    1. Yay! Now that everyone knows how great is is, we won’t have to penalize/tax them for not knowing how great it is!

  4. Do these numbers include the Medicaid enrollments?

    1. No.

      15 million including Medicaid and 3 million “under 26ers”.


      This fucking jalopy might run after all. In November it looked like a clusterfuck.

      1. This fucking jalopy might run after all.

        (1) Will more people have health insurance when enrollment closes, than had health insurance last year?

        If not, I don’t think you can call this a success in any way, shape or form.

        I’m willing to bet real money that you could take all of the money spent on ObamaCare so far, divide it by the number of net new insured people, and come up with a number that is at least two orders of magnitude higher than it would have cost to just buy all those people a Cadillac plan outright.

        (2) Will the new pools be toxic or functional?

        The early read is toxic, but, that’s early. We’ll see, but I have little reason to believe that they aren’t, if not poised for a death spiral, at least not in any shape to avoid premium increases.

        1. I saw the stats. The # of uninsured had dropped about .5% of the population as of two weeks ago. That is not very much considering all the agitation involved.

          And I would not take your bet.

          You may not remember. I am not claiming “SUCCESS” will be achieved. I have said repeatedly that it will not be a measurable factor in the next two elections.

          1. The # of uninsured had dropped about .5% of the population as of two weeks ago.

            Compared to when?

          2. I am not claiming “SUCCESS” will be achieved. I have said repeatedly that it will not be a measurable factor in the next two elections.

            Which is the only metric that matters, really.

          3. With all due respect I think you’re out of your mind if you think it won’t be a factor in the midterms or in 2016. To the extent that Florida was a bellwether, that campaign was practically a referendum on the ACA specifically and progressivism in general.

            Jolly ran straight against “big government” and Obamacare, while Sinks accused him of being a Tea Party extremist who wanted to privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare.

            And she lost.

    2. I believe so – once you go through the process, such as it is, and you end up being flagged for Medicare, I think you slide down the chute into that particular pit of despair.

      But it will be a looooong time until we find out how many and how end up with what.

      1. *Medicaid

  5. If only there was some way to buy insurance in the market place.

    1. We could call such a place “ehealthinsurance.com”

  6. We also don’t know how many of these people already had insurance.
    In January the WSJ reported that as many as 80% of the people who had signed up already had insurance.

    1. You can never have enough insurance.

      And there’s never been a better time to buy even more insurance.

      Insurance bubble.

      1. LOL yes. This.

        The powers that be have been searching for another bubble to inflate since the last one burst. This is it.

        The Insurance Bubble of 2015.

        I’m confident that Barney Frank will proclaim that there is no “insurance bubble” of that is where his bread is buttered.

        What ever happened to Barney ? Did his video clip denouncing Bushes warning about the looming housing crisis lead him to decide not to run again after such a “distinguished career” ?

    2. Yeah, the metrics for success here wouldn’t pass muster in a STAT 101 class. It says something very depressing about either Americans as a whole or how they’re viewed by the WH that this is what they’re throwing at us as proof that it’s a success.

  7. 6 million Obamacare signups. 6 million jews killed in the holocaust. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    1. Speaking of genocides, as of 2014, the population of Ireland has yet to return to pre-Famine levels.

      1. Why not ?

        The science of potato(e) farming has increased by multiples.

  8. The enrollment goals are low-hanging fruit flamb?d in weaksauce, anyway. The raw number of enrollees covered through an exchange tells us nothing about composition, how many were ousted from their previous plans, how many would have signed up regardless, and whether they skew young enough to prevent a demographic crisis in coverage. It especially tells us nothing about premiums or quality of coverage. Those metrics will be anathema to O’care promoters.

    1. Also note that the back end of the website is still not done. People cannot easily change coverage or correct errors, insurers are not getting accurate information, etc. The upshot is that rates will be going up next year.

      1. No different that the early days of OASDI. The tax rate has gone up 600% since its inception in the 30’s. And it’s still insolvent.

  9. How does Sebelius still have a job? She is lying directly to congress. REPEATEDLY.

    Sebelius was asked specifically by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) about any potential pushbacks on the open-enrollment deadline two weeks ago, and replied, “No sir.”

    The day prior to that testimony, the spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told reporters that HHS didn’t have the authority to do so. “We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period,” Julie Bataille said. “In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.”


    1. you answered your own question – Sebelius still has a job because she is willing to lie. Susan Rice used that tactic to get promoted. Lord knows Holder has used it, Clapper used it, and the list goes on.

      You see a bug, the administration sees a feature.

    2. She still has a job because firing her would require appointing someone to take her place and putting them through Senate confirmation. Obama doesn’t want to do that.

      Also, if she leaves government, Obama won’t be able to claim executive privilege to shield her from being compelled to testify. Sibelious no doubt knows where a lot of bodies are buried on the IRS scandal and probably a few other things. She will never be fired.

      1. John, I’ve noticed you and Epi have stopped hooping and hollering every time some anecdotal Obamascare article is posted.

        Are you two getting a little worried?

        1. Since you are illiterate, I doubt you have noticed anything.

          You are retarded shreek. It would serve you well to remember that and understand virtually anything you notice or think is almost certainly completely wrong if not outright insane.

        2. Repetition is wearisome, even for schadenfreude.

        3. Re: Peter Caca,

          John, I’ve noticed you and Epi have stopped hooping and hollering every time some anecdotal Obamascare article is posted.

          Ohh, this is too easy. Too easy!

          Caca, they are not bothering with it anymore because the situation with Obamacare is like having hurricanes leveling cities every fucking day – at one point, one stops caring. But that doesn’t mean the hurricanes have stopped leveling cities every fucking day, so stop pretending.

        1. The snake is like, “well, at least that instrument isn’t as annoying as a bagpipe.”

      2. Please ignore the 8% in the room.

        There is a reason you don’t try and teach a pig to sing.

        1. Is 8% his LPT result?

          1. It’s a reminder that he/she/it is essentially a stooge from the left who comes here to regurgitate Huffpo talking points about how wonderful OUR DEAL LEADER is.

            The 8% part is from a comment where he forgot to edit out the part of the talking point he wasn’t supposed to show.

      3. John has the…..

        Interet win for the day.

    3. I believe lying to Congress is a job requirement.

      It’s only bad to lie to Congress if you are a professional athlete.

  10. Arguing these numbers is much like determining how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – a fruitless endeavor. Even if the enrollment numbers are wildly higher than projected, or the administration (and the pundits in turn) declare victory, it still doesn’t matter in the larger scale. It’s still a sucky “law” – a moving one at that – with enough built-in contradictions that further massive fixes or outright repeal will be needed. It doesn’t address the real problems of the healthcare system, but instead exacerbates them. Hence the number of delays of the mandates – trying to ease the political pain of this monstrosity.

    1. whoa whoa whoa…you mean a system whose original problems stemmed from govt involvement has gotten worse because of more govt involvement? I am surprise.

  11. “*…who is my wife.”

    How in the hell do you rate getting a woman with looks and brains Suderman? Or does she even know you’re claiming her as your wife? 😉

    1. She is also smart. I caught her on Bloomberg TV or CSPAN (can’t remember).

      1. I… I don’t want to know what you were doing in the privacy of your room besides watching Bloomberg or C-SPAN at that time. So please, don’t tell me.

    2. Might as well have wrote “I’m tapping dat”


        2. Link is broken. Megan Jennifer McArdle and Peter William Lindeberg Suderman

  12. How Many People Will End Up Enrolled Under Obamacare? We Don’t Know?and It May Be a While Before We Do

    But keeping the suspense up is what makes this play unfolding in front of our eyes so enjoyable!

    Because this is all theater, right? I mean, this can’t be real…

    1. Bingo !

      So what else must be going on that is so bad they keep us focused on this ?

  13. Wonder if he tried to sign up the Catholic Church for Obamacare.

  14. just a few years ago we knew exactly who was and wasn’t insured and why.

    but nowadays we’re Napoleon Dyanamite territory, “like anyone could possibly know that”.

  15. Stupidest law ever. The fools can’t even do corporatism right.

  16. “is during” is repeated twice in the second paragraph.

  17. A verbal Friday Funny:

    A county fair. Obama, dressed like a side show hawker, stands in a concession booth. Perhaps some adoring girls ? hearts floating above their heads.

    The sign above the booth reads “Kissing booth”. Inside is a very disgusting pig wearing lipstick. Label of course: Obamacare.

    The sign in front of the booth reads: “Kisses : $3,000 Refusals: $95 ”

    In front stands a bunch of bewildered young adults. “Wait? I pay either way? How’d this happen? I thought it was FREE?”

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  19. and It May Be a While Before We Do


    We will NEVER know. Trusting numbers from the US government is like trusting numbers from the Chinese government.

  20. Who care about the enrollment numbers. I want to know the confirmed numbers on those actually making premium payments.

  21. They announced today that the number has already hit 6M.

    Since you like to quote Kaiser, Peter, when its a number that fits your meme, guess you did not want to post this:

    59% of all polled said they want the ACA either kept in place, or kept in place and improved. A number that keeps rising. 52% of Independents said that, and even 31% of Republicans said that. Only 39% of all polled wanted it repealed.


    As time goes by, more and more like it, something you did not think would be the case.

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  23. The number of enrollments, even after you subtract the no-pays (and those that will drop coverage within a few months) and add in the off-exchange enrollments, isn’t actually that important. The real number to be interested in is, how many people are NEWLY covered, i.e. were previously uninsured and now have coverage due to Obamacare?

    The numbers by this metric look pretty terrible – I’m going to put the over/under number at about 2 million newly insured. Add in maybe 5-6 million new Medicaid enrollments, and what Obamacare is likely to achieve in the end will be a modest expansion in Medicaid and a negligible expansion in the privately insured. Seems pretty far from ‘universal’ or ‘nearly-universal’ healthcare, which I thought was the point of this mess.

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