ObamaCare Hits Week 25: Enrollment Numbers Rise, But Details Still Lacking
by Kate Rogers
March 14, 2014
ObamaCare’s 25th week of open enrollment brought Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Capitol Hill, the president sat down with actor Zack Galafinakis, and the administration released the latest enrollment figures.
Sebelius appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday to defend her agency’s proposed 2015 budget, but faced a peppering of questions about the Affordable Care Act, including the number of enrollees who have actually paid their plan’s first month’s premium. The secretary told lawmakers that the government had “no idea” how many people had made those payments.
But industry insiders tell FOXBusiness.com Sebelius and the Obama Administration know more payment details than they are letting on. One source explains the health insurance exchanges were created in a way to show such information and that they White House is withholding the information for “political reasons.”
HHS divulged on Tuesday that 4.2 million have selected plans on both state and federal exchanges since Oct.1. The number include people who have and have not yet paid their first month’s premiums, bucking insurance industry norms.
Paul Howard, director of the Center for Medial Progress at the Manhattan Institute, says if Sebelius is being untruthful, it would be “deeply problematic” for the overall trajectory of the law.
“It doesn’t allow the American people or Congress to evaluate the effectiveness of the law, or the cost or quality of health care,” Howard says.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to every insurer listing on state and federal exchanges on Thursday to in an effort more enrollment and payment details.
Premium Payments and Enrollment
One reason the White House would withhold premium payment information is because releasing it would mean revising its already lower-than-projected enrollment stats down, a source close to the matter told FOXBusiness.com.
Bob Lasewski, who writes the Healthcare Policy and Marketplace Blog, first reported in February that nearly 20% of new enrollees had not made their first month’s premium payment.
Devon Herrick, senior analyst at the National Center for Policy Analysis, says he has heard similar unpaid premium statistics, and that number could potentially grow.
“They are trying to paint as good of a picture as they can; 4.2 million have supposedly selected a plan, but if they haven’t paid, they aren’t actually insured.”
The White House originally projected having 7 million people enrolled on the exchanges by March 31, but it has since tapered that number.
“I think they will be lucky if they get to 5 million,” Howard says. “Short of a tsunami of enrollment, it won’t happen.”
The Truth ‘Between Two Ferns’
As a part of a continued push to drum up interest among younger people to buy coverage, the president appeared on comedian Zack Galafinakis’ parody show “Between Two Ferns” on Tuesday. In response to the spot, the federal health exchange, healthcare.gov, experienced a 40% surge in traffic, according to the administration.
Of the 4.2 million enrollees announced this week, 25% were between the ages of 18 and 34, the much-needed younger demo to keep premium levels down for older and less-healthy enrollees.
But Howard points out it’s not traffic that the site needs, its sign ups.
“It was smart outreach, and they got a surge of people on Healthcare.gov, so that is exactly what they wanted,” he says. “But whether these people buy insurance is a whole other story.
After all, clicks don’t mean purchases. “We have already had 70-plus million people visit the site, but only about four million have purchased insurance. All of this is great, but if at the end of the day you don’t have a product that is affordable, and that you can sell, that is a whole other story.”