With the Department of Health and Human Services to release its first official estimates of the number of people who’ve signed up for health plans on the federally run exchange this week, one important question has now been answered: What counts as an Obamacare enrollee? Someone who’s applied for and purchased a plan for which he’s eligible, but not necessarily who’s paid for it.
Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post quotes an administration official anonymously issuing the following description: “In the data that will be released this week, ‘enrollment’ will measure people who have filled out an application and selected a qualified health plan in the marketplace.” That isn’t a simple process — because the availability and price of health plans depends on where one lives and one’s income level, that means that “enrollees” will have submitted their information and presumably had their identities confirmed by pinging the federal data hub.
Kliff goes on to relay this . . . argument: “The administration plans to use the broader count of enrollees because it is a better gauge of consumers’ interests, and because no payments are due until Dec. 15, the administration official said.” While it’s a fair point that people have no reason to make their first, rather substantial payment on their health plan now, it seems a little less believable that the number of people who’ve picked a plan but haven’t decided whether to actually commit to paying for it should be included in the best “gauge of consumers’ interests.”
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that the number of enrollees through the federal system by the administration’s definition is between 40 and 50,000 — that’s about 1 percent of the number of enrollees the CBO had projected in the states using the federal exchange.