Since the end of Obamacare's first open enrollment period earlier this year, enrollment data has been sparse. The administration stopped releasing monthly reports, and has provided enrollment updates sporadically, with little context or detail.
And, it turns out, at least one of the counts was wrong, artifically inflated by the inclusion of almost 400,000 dental plans that the administration now claims were mistakenly included.
When Medicare administrator Marilyn Tavenner appeared before Congress in September, she said that 7.3 million people were currently enrolled. That number was boosted by the inclusion of 380,000 dental plans that should not have been included, Bloomberg News reported today.
The inclusion of the dental plans at that time pushed the total over the administration's stated goal of 7 million enrolled.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said on Twitter today that the inclusion of those plans was a "mistake" and "unacceptable."
The administration later reported that 7.1 million people were still enrolled, but according to Bloomberg News, the total number of enrollees as of October 15 is about 6.7 million. At the end of the first open enrollment period, the administration repeatedly touted its success at getting 8 million sign-ups during the first year.
What the new figures reveal, then, is the fragility and instability of that initial figure. Not only did the number of enrollments continue to drop during and after the summer, the figure wasn't as high as reported in post-open-enrollment updates. This is probably at least one reason why enrollment targets for the second enrollment period were recently slashed by about 50 percent.
Obamacare's second open enrollment period started last Saturday, but enrollment data so far remains sparse. About 100,000 applicatons were sent in to the system on Saturday, but as Jeffrey Young of The Huffington Post notes, it's not clear how many of those people actually went ahead and selected a plan. The Department of Health and Human Services declined a request for further information from The Washington Post.