Fact Checked

Obamacare by the Numbers: Are Americans Really Signing Up?

The answer is, not really. The early ACA numbers are in, and they’re looking pretty grim. More than a month into the rollout of Obamacare, and only 106,185 people have chosen a private health insurance plan using the health care reform law's exchanges, according to a report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, which represents the first time the Obama administration has given enrollment figures.

This represents a tiny fraction of the target achieved which was to have 7 million Americans in private insurance and 9 million Americans on Medicaid by March 31st. Of those 106,185 who have selected a plan, not all have paid for it. You’re only enrolled once you’ve paid for a plan, and according to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius people might be waiting to pay their first premium since the deadline isn’t until Dec 15th.

A closer look shows that just 26,794 people selected a plan through the faulty federal enrollment website, which serves 36 states — about 25 percent of the total. The other 79,391 picked a plan through the state-run health exchanges — which only exist in 14 states and the District of Columbia, some of which were also besieged by technical problems. Add in the recent revelation that many who purchase health insurance on the individual market are receiving cancellation notices and negative publicity seems to be piling up. This has not deterred proponents of the program however; “We can reasonably expect that these numbers will grow substantially over the next five months” Sebelius stated.

The Affordable Care Act was meant to function similarly to the Massachusetts health reform or “Romneycare,” with both laws containing provisions for state run exchanges, subsidies for lower-income households, and individual and business mandates. Romneycare was enacted in 2006 by then Governor Mitt Romney and prior to that, more than 7% of Massachusetts residents lacked health insurance. According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation’s 2011 five-year progress report on the Massachusetts reform, the number of uninsured in the state has dropped to less than 2%. During the same period, the average rate of uninsured in the nation rose to more than 16%. This chart from the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority helps illustrate that even though initial Romneycare numbers were low, they eventually picked up as the deadline approached. This will no doubt be music to the White House’s ears, in their fight to boost these dismal initial numbers.