Totals likely to be far below initial administration projections – epic failure? Obamacare enrollment numbers due to be released

Epic Failure? Obamacare

When Obamacare enrollment statistics are released later this week, the numbers are expected to fall far short of the administration’s initial projections. To date, an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 participants are reported to have enrolled via, the federally operated healthcare site, which currently serves 36 of the nation’s 50 states. This figure represents less than one-tenth of the 500,000 enrollments that were projected to have been completed by this time.

Among the states (and the District of Columbia) that have elected to create their own healthcare exchange sites, participation rates have been even lower. To date, less than 50,000 people have enrolled via the sites, a number roughly 3 percent of the 1.4 million originally expected to participate by year’s end.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Erin Shields Britt states, “We cannot confirm these numbers. More generally, we have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time.”

In testimony before a Senate Committee, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius echoed this sentiment, stating “I can tell you our early enrollment numbers are going to be very low.” In an effort to temper this statement, Sebelius also offered her assurance that the federal exchanges would be fully functional by the end of this month.

According to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, a mere 6 people enrolled on October 1, which was the official opening day for Over the next two days, the pace accelerated only slightly, with 248 enrollments logged by midnight on October3.

Jon Gruber, MIT economist and past advisor to both president Obama and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, views the situation asEpic Failure? Obamacare being somewhat less dire than reports may indicate, and believes that low early enrollment figures do not necessarily point to impending failure. This assertion does appear to hold a certain degree of truth. In fact, when the state of Massachusetts initiated its own healthcare coverage plan (AKA Romenycare) in 2007, the initial rollout was met with general apathy. Only as the looming threat of financial penalty approached did enrollment numbers trend markedly upward.

“The key deadline here is March 31,” Gruber states. “That’s when people have to have insurance to avoid the individual mandate.” “The real deal is still to come,” concurs Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic.

Do eligible Americans even want Obamacare?

Persistent, crippling problems with the site have been listed as primary among the reasons for this stunningly low enrollment rate. However, the real problem may lie at a more fundamental level. It appears that the American public simply does not want Obamacare.

Between October 23 and November 6, Gallup pollsters asked uninsured Americans for their opinions about the exchanges. Perhaps surprisingly, only 22 percent said that they plan to get insurance (or have already purchased insurance) through state and federal exchanges.

A statement released by Gallup explains, “The health exchange websites are not only fraught with the technical problems that have led to so much news coverage in recent weeks, but have also generated relatively little interest or use among uninsured Americans – the primary target group for the exchanges.”

Epic Failure? ObamacareGallup also found that less than half of uninsured Americans (44 percent, to be specific) who want health insurance plan to obtain it through an exchange. Further, approximately a quarter of those polled say they would be more likely to pay a fine rather than purchase the mandated insurance coverage.

Some speculate that the uninsured may be delaying their purchases until widely publicized bugs with the websites are exterminated, while others posit that many Americans simply expect the troubled program to crash and burn in time, thus eliminating the eventual need to sign-up.

Regardless of the reason(s), an overwhelming lack of interest could spell disaster for the Affordable Care Act. Reports indicate that to achieve financial viability, the troubled program would need to enroll 7 million participants by March 1, 2014. To achieve this now very distant number, more than 46,000 people would need to be enrolled each day.

What to expect when the official numbers are released

Epic Failure? ObamacareThere has been a great deal of speculation as to what we can expect when the administration’s “official” numbers are released. Many believe that they will be artificially inflated by the inclusion of new Medicaid enrollments (more on that in a moment), while others speculate that the president will be forced to deliver un-adulterated statistics in order to maintain the appearance of propriety.

For those who are poor and have been uninsured, the enrollment initiative has been a rousing success. Government officials report that over 700,000 Medicaid applications have been completed. But from a fiscal standpoint, this news tends to be less than positive.

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