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Obamacare enrollment soars to six million

The Obama administration is happy to announce the success of their marketing campaign for Obamacare which has drawn over six million customers as of this week, just before the March 31 deadline. According to CNN, more than “1.5 million people have visited and more than 430,000 people have placed calls to the call centers.”

This goal is well below the goal of seven million that the Congressional Budget Office had predicted, but much better than the estimated 106,000 individuals who signed up for Obamacare the first month. For most proponents, however, this is a victory for the Obama administration who has received intense criticism for the “botched” launch in October 2013.

Picking plan and paying premiums is not the same thing


Critics counter, however, that the numbers could be inflated and may not reflect the true number of individuals who have actually paid their premiums for Obamacare but simply those who have chosen a plan. We won’t really know the actual enrollment numbers critics argue until payments are made for the first months or coverage. According to CNN, “Insurers have said that the share of people sending in payments is in the 80% range.”

Do the Obamacare numbers match the insurer’s expectations?


Other experts contend that the true test of success for Obamacare is not the number enrolled but whether the numbers match what the insurer’s expectations. Insurance adjusters will use not only the number enrolled, but also the types of policies people choose and how many insurance claims are filed throughout the year to determine premiums for next year.

What’s even more important than anything discussed above, however, will be whether enough healthy and young people sign up for insurance coverage. The White House needs about 40% of enrollees to be young and healthy (ages 18 to 34), but the true enrollee numbers for this age group are much less at 25%.

If the number of healthy enrollees is too low and the plans are weighted too heavily with the elderly and sick (who require much more expensive health care coverage), those who are signed up can expect hefty rate increases next year as insurance companies struggle to provided coverage.

Will enrollees get good medical coverage?


But having medical coverage is only the first step. Unfortunately, as new Obamacare enrollees are finding out throughout the country, many insurance companies, in an effort to manage health care costs, have had to sharply cut the number of doctors and hospitals available to patients in the state's new health insurance market. No one is talking about it, but more and more state officials are staring to receive moreconsumer complaints about access to medical providers.

"It's a little early for anyone to know how widespread and deep this problem is," said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "There are a lot of economic incentives for health insurers to narrow their networks, but if they go too far, people won't have access to care. Network adequacy will be a big issue in 2014."

Yes, availability of medical care has always been a problem, but what happens when there are millions of more newly insured patients? You can expect longer delays and more difficulty finding a doctor even with medical insurance.

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