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Saturday, October 22, 2016

By Noam N. Levey, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — With less than a month remaining in the first enrollment period, more than 4.2 million Americans have signed up for health insurance on marketplaces created by President Barack Obama’s health law, administration officials announced Tuesday.

The new enrollment report confirms that the administration and its allies will probably fall short of the 7 million sign-ups they had hoped to get in 2014.

The report also shows that health insurance sign-ups continued to recover in February from the disastrous launch of the federal website. More than 940,000 people enrolled in coverage in February alone.

Based on the experience of other programs, officials expect the rate of sign-ups to accelerate between now and the March 31 deadline for enrolling in coverage this year.

The sign-up figures overstate actual enrollment, however, as many consumers have not paid their insurance bills. Administration officials have not released figures on the number of paid premiums. Some insurers have reported that as many as 1 in 5 consumers have not yet paid.

California continues to lead all states through the first five months of enrollment, with nearly 869,000 people signed up for a health plan through the state’s marketplace, Covered California.

Florida, which is among 36 states that are relying on the federal government to run their marketplaces this year, was second with more than 244,000 sign-ups.

Next are Texas, New York, North Carolina and Michigan.

“Now, during this final month of open enrollment, our message to the American people is this,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “You still have time to get covered, but you’ll want to sign up today.”

The state-based marketplaces — a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act — enable Americans who do not get coverage at work to select among plans that offer at least a basic set of benefits. The plans cannot turn away sick people.

Consumers who make less than four times the federal poverty level, or about $94,000 for a family of four, qualify for government subsidies to offset the cost of their premiums.

It remains unclear how many of the people signing up for coverage were previously uninsured, a key measurement for the effectiveness of the landmark 2010 law.

But several new surveys suggest that the marketplaces may be having an effect on health coverage.

  • Kurt CPI

    The problem is that Levy’s statement, “Some insurers have reported that as many as 1 in 5 consumers have not yet paid…”, negates all of his other statistical offerings. In fact, 20% is a hopeful estimate of how many enrollees have yet to pay. It may well be closer to 25%. In either case, all of the other fluffy figures will also turn out to be inflated by 20 – 25%.
    I’m happy to report that changes in my employer-based health insurance have indeed resulted in a modestly lower cost while maintaining relatively comparable coverage for major medical, and also adding dental, optical. I realize that’s not the case for everyone.
    It’s a shame to see ACA politicized by both parties, obviously with Republicans leading the cheers for its failure. But also by Democrats caving in on requirements whenever sticking with those requirements would appear to have a politically negative effect, and continuing to make modifications to timetables and exemptions – clearly are detrimental to ACA’s financial success – for purely political reasons.
    The US political system with its PAC and corporate financing and a sales force of lobbyists insures that government will never be able to get anything right, especially things that require a pragmatic approach. Government can’t do anything maintaining the focus on project. Everything ultimately comes back to “What do I have to say or do to be re-elected?”. As big as universal healthcare is, and with government at the helm, it’ll be a miracle if it doesn’t turn out to be just another disaster.

    • 1standlastword

      ACA is a half measure supported by half of our government and for that reason it will never be a grand success.

      Additionally, I’m convinced that it is a winner for the poor and at-risk who now have healthcare but a loser for those of us who had the plans we could afford.

      I count myself a loser in the ACA scheme because as a small business owner who files married/ filing separately, I’ve been disqualified for the affordable rates because of my filing status.

      Now I’m facing a decision to change my filing status this year and the possibility that I might have to pay significantly higher rates for health insurance.

      I would have preferred a single payer scheme but that would have caused all hell to break loose in this age of the PROFIT MOTIVE.

      • Kurt CPI

        Couldn’t agree more. Nationalized healthcare coverage should have eliminated profit from the coverage equation. By “half measure” you really mean “half a$$ed” and that says it all. Requiring people to buy coverage that provides for themselves and subsidizes lower income people that can’t possibly afford it is a worthy and noble endeavor and I would have agreed with Judge Robert’s opinion if that were the case. But forcing people to buy insurance from for-profit companies is unquestionably as unconstitutional as it is stupid (stupid = politics as usual). Which just takes me back around to my original post…

        • Allan Richardson

          Still better than the status quo ante (the mess we were in before). And insisting on single payer when we did NOT have a half measure in place would have KEPT the status quo ante for another generation. It may take another generation to move the next step forward (or maybe not), but we have made progress.

          And from a moral point of view, denying the means to go on living to millions of Americans for purely financial reasons is immoral. As incomplete as it is, the ACA will save 45,000 lives a year that have been lost ONLY because of lack of money to get help — money that could only be afforded with health coverage which was denied. Even if if RAISED THE DEFICIT, it is still the RIGHT thing to do. And even if I become one of those who has to sacrifice on some other luxury to help those who have NO HOPE WITHOUT IT, it is the RIGHT thing to do. All of which should be obvious to the Bible thumping people if they would actually READ the Bible they are thumping … maybe Matthew 25 for a start.

          • Kurt CPI

            I never argue religion and politics in the same post 🙂 I wasn’t condemning the motive or “rightness”, just the implementation. There are uncountable “right” things to do if money is no object. Unfortunately, money is a consideration and the commercial backbone of ACA just adds to the expense. Morally it’s good. Fiscally it’s ridiculous.

          • 1standlastword

            Alan, if ACA was targeted at the poor and at-risk populations with a single payer concept it would be better than what it is now and BO would be like Moses to the Hebrews

            The pressure on republicans would then be so great that the repairs being conducted now would be focused on making commercial insurance more “affordable”


          • Allan Richardson

            To the “Hebrews” yes, but the “Egyptians” vote too. The way the Congress was apportioned in 2009 was not quite progressive enough to get past the 60-vote Senate filibuster requirement without giving in to some Democratic and Republican Senators who did NOT want even an OPTIONAL single payer public plan. We got what we could get, and if we had turned it down we would have gotten NOTHING.

            Like the young man in the old Alka Seltzer ad who was hitching a ride to Miami to get out of the snow, and turned down a ride in a sports car from a beautiful girl who was driving alone … but “only going to Fort Lauderdale.” Once we get to Fort Lauderdale, or even Savannah, we are that much closer to Miami!

          • 1standlastword

            We can only hope. There is a great article in this months Economist “What’s wrong with Democracy” I know you’d like it

      • LeRoy Crume

        Go find out for yourself my friend. Ask questions.

    • LeRoy Crume

      OK, Keep believing the BS you hear others preach !!!

  • Kurt CPI

    Sure, math is BS (even the math quoted in the article – you read the article, right?). Getting all of my information from one source and listening only to the good parts is definitely what I should do.