Almost 1 million people enrolled at healthcare.gov in the last few weeks. Here's what that tells us—and what it doesn't.
Good news: There's extra day to sign up. Bad news: It shows just how hard this is.
But here's how it really works
Republicans and their allies are making a lot of different arguments about what Obamacare is doing to America. It’s hiking premiums! It’s making people lose their doctors! It’s destroying Medicare! But if you listen closely, you’ll discern a common theme—a message aimed squarely at the middle class: Obamacare is taking away your money or health insurance, and giving it to somebody else.
Everybody agrees that healthcare.gov is working much better than before. Everybody also agrees that it’s not working as well as it should. So what’s a fair way to evaluate its progress? One way is to compare its performance to commercial websites. Two smart writers on the right, Philip Klein and Megan McArdle, have made that case in the last few days. Here’s Klein:
It’s been widely noted that one of the biggest challenges for the Obama administration in setting up the new federal exchange for health insurance was that the project was much bigger than anticipated. Why? Because far fewer states than expected decided to set up their own exchanges—36 of them left the task to the federal government.
The real detail to watch is still to come
The Department of Health and Human Services will release initial enrollment statistics for Obamacare sometime this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. But the disputes have started already. Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky of the Wall Street Journal are reporting that no more than 50,000 people successful enrolled in insurance plans via healthcare.gov last month.
Today it’s a few hundred thousand people. By next year, it will be at least a few million. Their health insurance status is changing dramatically: What they have in 2014 and beyond will look nothing like what they had in 2013 and before. For many of these people, the difference will be hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. In a few cases, it may be the difference between life and death.
Here are two facts that have gotten very little attention amid all the controversy about insurance plan cancellations and “rate shock.”Fact one: Thanks to Obamacare’ subsidies, several million people now have the opportunity to get private insurance at essentially no cost.Fact two: Those ultra-cheap policies are pretty threadbare. They might keep people out of bankruptcy, but they still would leave beneficiaries exposed to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses a year.
"I would jump at it"
If you’ve followed the stories of insurance cancellations related to Obamacare, you may have heard about Dianne Barrette. She’s the 57-year-old Florida realtor who was paying $54 a month for a Blue Cross insurance plan. The plan won’t be available after December. And while FloridaBlue offered her a new plan, the company told her the premium would be $591 a month. Barrette, who makes $30,000 a year and could not pay for such a plan, was flabbergasted.
President Obama was in Boston on Wednesday—not to watch a baseball game, but to send a message about health care reform: The idea really works. Given all the news about Obamacare lately, it’s a message the country very much needs to hear. The template for the Affordable Care Act is the reforms that Massachusetts officials enacted in 2006.