The enrollment numbers are out and we have a clear winner – Obamacare has achieved 8 million enrollments in its six month enrollment period, surpassing the targets it had set itself on the October 1 launch. When the health exchanges went live on October 1, a goal of 7 million enrollments was set. However, with technical glitches, opposition and a general education and knowledge gap on the law, the actual performance of the marketplaces was miserable.
The marketplaces wilted under the influx of Americans rushing to enroll with the system and exposed major flaws, making signing up a pain for anyone and everyone who tried. Bundle that with poor handling of transaction data, gaps in reconciliation between federal system and health plans and strong opposition by Republicans, the impact on the marketplaces was widespread, and America saw a shabby implementation of one of the most highly visible projects in recent history.
As a consequence, only a few enrollments went through on healthcare.gov on October 1, and only about a 106,000 enrolled throughout October. Overall there was another reason for worry as there was a lack of young, healthy individuals enrolling. Most of healthier individuals stayed away from the exchange till technical issues were sorted and they had more time to identify whether they needed the comparatively costlier Obamacare health insurance. The administration was faced a major challenge of fixing the system and convincing the people that Obamacare was the health reform they required, while Republicans pushed toward an Obamacare alternative. The administration answered by making changes to the marketplace and fixing technical errors to make sure that the enrollment process was smoother. In parallel, a complete campaign to lift up the law was launched and, through exchange navigators and volunteers, the administration made a collective push towards more enrollments. As a result, by March 1, 3.7 million people had enrolled through the exchanges. A big target was still looming – to cross 7 million enrollments and have a bigger share of healthier individuals on the exchange. Initially, to make Obamacare viable, 40 percent of the enrollees had to be young, healthy.
In the last month of the open enrollment period, the traction picked up. True, the exchanges were working fine, advertising and outreach were at their peaks, and the younger individuals started to see value in the ACA, but a big role was played by the looming deadline that brought tax penalties into the picture. The deadline acted as a catalyst and Obamacare breached its target of 7 million, and ended up enrolling 8 million people into the program. Even bigger news was the fact that 35 percent of people who signed up for Obamacare insurance were under the age of 35. The percentage of people between 18 and 34 years of age was 28 percent. Although there were some last minute problems, which prompted the administration to extend the process a couple of days into April, the end result was exactly what Obama administration had hoped for.
Now, the administration has plans to continue this winning streak and build upon what they have accomplished in the 6 month enrollment period.
• President Obama wants to continue on the path, and strongly believes that the Obamacare health reform, if not a complete solution, is the first step toward better healthcare for America. Although he knows that the law is not a solution to all the existing problems of US healthcare system, it is a start, and repealing it would only cause more problems than benefits.
• The administration wants to ensure that states that are lagging behind in enrollments, mainly due to troubled state-based marketplaces, such as Oregon, Maryland, etc., are ready with their system when the next open enrollment period begins.
• Enrollments, which are stalled or incomplete in any way, are a top priority for the government and health plans, and large-scale reconciliation will take place before November 2015.
• Through Obamacare, the administration wants to continue to benefit younger individuals when they look for better insurance whenever there is a crucial life event, such as marriage, birth of a child, or job change.
The road to a better healthcare system is long and arduous, but Obamacare is making good progress. With 8 million enrollments to power the balance of the system, phase 1 is accomplished. With the launch of SHOP exchanges coming closer and another enrollment period waiting for opening, a lot is in the works for Americans this year.