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Affordable Care Act, Government, Government Programs, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Health Insurance, Health Reform, Healthcare, Obama, Obamacare, Politics, Public Health, Public Policy, Society, Women's Health

Obamacare Enrollment Soars To 11.4 Million

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The Obama administration has beaten its own goal for Obamacare enrollments, which exceeded 11 million through Sunday’s deadline for most U.S. residents to choose a health insurance plan, the White House announced Tuesday.

In a video posted to Facebook, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell informs President Barack Obama of preliminary estimates of this year’s signups. The three-month enrollment period all but ended Sunday, but federal and state officials are allowing consumers who began applications prior to the deadline to complete them.

“We just got great news today, which is that during this open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, 11.4 million people have either re-enrolled or enrolled for first the first time,” Obama says on the video. “It gives you some sense of how hungry people were out there for affordable, accessible health insurance.”

“The Affordable Care Act is working,” Obama said. “It’s working a little better than we expected.”

Prior to the Nov. 15 kickoff of this year’s enrollment campaign, the Department of Health and Human Services set a target of 10.3 million to 11.2 million people enrolled in private policies obtained via the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges by the close of the signup period. Tuesday’s announcement shows the exchange marketplaces have bested that goal before the final accounting is made.

Sunday was the biggest day for Obamacare enrollment to date during the signup periods for 2014 and 2015, Burwell says on the video. The new enrollment data includes signups from federally run health insurance exchanges on HealthCare.gov in 37 states, as well as from those operated by 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Of the 11.4 million enrollees, 8.6 million received coverage through healthcare.gov – the consumers whose coverage is jeopardized by the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court, which is seen by most as a hyper-partisan attempt to gut the healthcare law. The case hinges on the wording of the law, not the constitutionality of it, and challenges the IRS rule allowing Obamacare subsidies in states that have not built their own insurance exchanges. If the Court rules in favor of Obamacare opponents, those 8.6 million people could see the cost of their plans skyrocket — and for no good reason.

Over the next several months, the total enrollment figures are likely to change a bit, though we’re not sure in which direction. Some of the 11.4 million will fail to pay their premiums and will end up losing this coverage. This happened last year, when enrollment totals dipped from about 8 million to a little over 7 million. On the other hand, the total may increase in April if, as suspected, the administration re-opens a special enrollment period in April, helping uninsured consumers avoid a tax penalty.

But the enrollment numbers only tell part of the story. By most metrics, the Affordable Care Act is exceeding expectations and making a world of difference for families, communities, businesses, and budgets.

The list of successes is so long, it’s hard to believe that so many Republicans continue to pretend the system is failing. The law has quickly improved the uninsured rate while producing impressive results on premiums, customer satisfaction rates, the lowest increase in health care spending in 50 years, the growing number of insurers who want to participate in exchange marketplaces, the reduced financial stress on families, the efficacy of Medicaid expansion, the efficacy of the medical-loss ratio, the reduced medical errors system-wide, and as of this week, the soaring enrollment totals.

And that’s not all: hospitals in expansion states are reporting substantial reductions in the number of uninsured patient admissions, which is saving them millions in uncompensated care. Meanwhile, in non-expansion states, hospitals reported an increase in spending on uncompensated care. The Affordable Care Act is also saving the nation’s safety-net hospitals, which treat a disproportionate share of poor and uninsured people and therefore face billions of dollars in unpaid bills. Such facilities had expected to see a drop in uninsured patients seeking treatment, but the change has been faster and deeper than most anticipated— at least in the states that expanded Medicaid.

What’s more, the Affordable Care Act is actually going to cost less than it was expected to.

For the most part, the Republican response to these developments is to play make believe and pretend the successes don’t exist. And in an unfortunate twist for many, the successes may no longer exist if Republicans on the Supreme Court gut the law later this year.

 

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