Is Obamacare Enrollment Dropping?



The Obama administration stopped releasing monthly enrollment reports for Obamacare in May, and won't say if or when those reports will start up again. So what's happening during this interim between sign-up periods?

Enrollment numbers are falling for one insurer, reports Jed Graham of Investor's Business Daily:

ObamaCare exchange statistics should clear up any doubt as to why the Obama Administration has been tight-lipped about enrollment since celebrating 8 million sign-ups in mid-April.

Reality, evidence suggests, could require quite a come-down from those lofty claims.

The nation's third-largest health insurer had 720,000 people sign up for exchange coverage as of May 20, a spokesman confirmed to IBD. At the end of June, it had fewer than 600,000 paying customers. Aetna expects that to fall to "just over 500,000" by the end of the year.

That would leave Aetna's paid enrollment down as much as 30% from that May sign-up tally.

"I think we will see some attrition … We're already seeing it. And we expect that to continue through the end of the year," CEO Mark Bertolini said in a July 29 conference call.

Aetna is, of course, only one insurer, and other insurers may not be experiencing a similar decline. Since the launch of Obamacare's exchanges last year, CEO Bertolini has been more bluntly critical of the law than other insurance execs, talking back in October about the pre-launch problems with the exchanges, and then saying early this year that the company will definitely lose money on Obamacare plans in 2014 and could end up leaving the exchange-driven insurance market entirely. Obamacare plans are only expected to make up about 3 percent of the company's revenue this year, so if things go south, Aetna has less to lose than some of its competitors. 

Even still, this is a rare early indication of the direction enrollment has gone in the months following open enrollment. A Pro Publica report last month noted that activity—sign-ups, cancellations, and other changes in enrollment status—remained significantly higher than expected in the federal exchange system, but the administration wouldn't say how many represented new enrollments. According to an anonymous insurance industry official, less than half were new enrollments. 

As Graham notes in the IBD report, enrollments in Washington state, which reports separately from the federal government, have shrunk from 164,062 at the end of April to 156,155 in June. 

Combine the reports, then, and it seems at least plausible, though not at all certain, that actual enrollment in Obamacare has fallen in recent months.