Concerned that the Obama administration has perhaps been a little too forthcoming with enrollment data under the health care law? Well, you can stop worrying. They're about to put a stop to that.
Throughout the law's open enrollment period, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released regular reports tabulating sign-ups, state-by-state totals, demographic breakdowns, and other information under the health law.
The reports were frustrating in many ways and often did not provide all the data that we would have ideally liked to see. But they were a regularly updated source of official health law figures—a partial but useful measure of some of what was happening under the law.
But with open enrollment over, and the midterm campaign season under way, the administration has apparently decided that it's no longer necessary to provide such information on a regular basis. The monthly reports are set to end, according to a report earlier this week in Politico, and the administration won't reveal what sort of data it will share in the future, saying only that "we will look at future opportunities to share information about the marketplace that is reliable and accurate over time as further analysis can be done."
This will make it very difficult to determine what is happening to enrollment during the "off season." Even though open enrollment has ended, there are still a variety of major life events—job loss, moves across state lines, the birth of a child—that qualify someone to get coverage through the exchange. But without regular, consistent reports, it's going to be essentially impossible to see what that churn looks like. Will enrollment rise, or fall, or stay flat during the months between open enrollment periods? Without recurring reports, we really won't know.
Even more worrying is that Politico reports that it's not clear that HHS plans to publish the reports again later this year, when the next open enrollment period begins. So we may not just end up in the dark about the off season—we may end up without useful, consistent data about what's happening when the enrollment game is on either.
It's hard to look at this move and see anything other than political motivation at work. What reason would the administration have for not reporting this information except hiding numbers that could be inconvenient? Yes, open enrollment is over, but enrollment changes will continue every month. And it's not as if these reports represent a particular drain on resources; the administration will have this information internally—it has to, in order to manage its end of the law—so it's really only a matter of whether it gets formatted for the public and released.
Obviously we don't know for certain what the motivation is here, but I'll put it this way: If the reports were likely to contain good news for the law, then it's difficult to imagine that the administration would be discontinuing them.