The next open enrollment period for Obamacare begins in a few weeks. “Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced Thursday that an expected 10 million Americans will be covered by late 2016 by health plans they bought on the federal and state insurance exchanges created under the law.”
This is a far cry from the CBO projections when Obamacare was passed. Last year, we saw lower revisions for enrollment from 13 million to a hopeful 9.1 million. Obamacare may have barely hit THAT target; the Washington Post reports that the number looks to be around “9.1 million Americans the administration believes will have ACA health plans by the end of this year.”
This is stunning news. To say that 10 million will be covered by 2016 means that the Obama Administration predicts a mere 1 MILLION enrollees this year. As the Washington Post reminds us, 10 million is “just half the most recent forecast by congressional budget analysts, who have long expected 2016 to usher in the biggest surge in enrollment.”
CBO forecasts had predicted 21 million enrollees in 2016, and 32 million by 2019. As expected, there are a litany of excuses for the abysmal numbers:
Still, substantive forces are at work behind the calculation. According to HHS estimates, about 10.5 million uninsured people are eligible to buy a health plan on the exchange, and they are proving more difficult to reach than those who bought coverage early on.
In addition, federal health officials point out that the dynamics of insurance coverage have not been playing out as analysts expected. Fewer employers have dropped health benefits for their workers, and fewer consumers have switched from older policies they purchased on their own. Both factors, HHS officials say, play into their projection of how many people are likely to gravitate to the exchanges.
HHS contended on Thursday that exchange enrollment, originally pegged to reach 24 million within several years, is not plateauing but is instead on “a much longer path towards equilibrium,” as a senior official said.”
What’s even less clear is how how this affects the budget projections and funding of Obamacare. An article last month in the Washington Times outlined how the enrollees for 2016 needed to double to stay solvent. On top of that, the penalty for not having insurance increases begins to increase sharply. The penalty during the first year was $95 or 1 percent of income above the filing threshold — a relatively minor bite. For tax year 2015, the penalty will be $325 or 2 percent of income, and for 2016 it will be $695 or 2.5 percent of income. Per person.
Remember when we were told that Obamacare would help millions to have insurance and also save Americans $2500/family? Me too.