Published on April 21, 2014

PPACA enrollment tops 8M, president says

By Paul Demko, Crain News Service

WASHINGTON (April 21, 2014) — Enrollment in health plans sold on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) insurance exchanges has reached 8 million, and 35 percent of those who signed up through HealthCare.gov are under the age of 35, President Barack Obama said April 17.

The PPACA “is now covering more people at less cost than most would have predicted a few months ago,” the president said last week in a White House news briefing.

Enrollment comfortably topped the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) projection that 7 million individuals would sign up for coverage during the first open-enrollment period. Following the disastrous rollout of the state and federal exchanges, hitting that benchmark appeared unlikely. Through the first five months of enrollment, just 4.2 million individuals had signed up for commercial plans through the exchanges.

The federal exchange, which is enrolling individuals in 36 states, saw a significant increase in the number of young adults signing up for coverage during the final weeks of enrollment. In total, 28 percent of enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34. That was up from 25 percent through February, when the White House last released demographic data on exchange participants. But it’s still well below the 35 percent to 40 percent that most experts believe is necessary to create a sustainable risk pool.

The open enrollment period closed on March 31. But the federal government, along with most state-based exchanges, allowed individuals who had started the enrollment process to complete their applications through mid-April. That allowed an additional 1 million consumers to sign up for coverage.

The enrollment numbers should be viewed with some caveats. They include an unknown number of people who signed up for a plan, but never followed through with a premium payment, and therefore aren't actually covered. In addition, the Obama administration has not released any data on how many individuals signing up for coverage through the government-run marketplaces were previously uninsured. A recent survey by the Urban Institute estimated that figure at 5.4 million.

The enrollment figures also don't include totals for individuals who signed up for PPACA-compliant plans outside of the exchanges. The CBO estimated this week that 5 million individuals have enrolled in coverage outside of the exchanges.

Mr. Obama once again called on Republicans to stop attempting to revoke the healthcare law. Chiding congressional Republicans for repeated votes to repeal the ACA, he said, “That could have been 50 efforts to create jobs…or 50 votes to make it easy for middle-class families to send their kids to college.”

“The repeal debate is and should be over; the Affordable Care Act is working.” the president added, reiterating remarks he has made in recent days and framing the expected debate between candidates on the midterm-election campaign trail this fall.

This report appeared on the website of Crain’s Modern Healthcare magazine, a Chicago-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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