November 14, 2013 — The Obama administration on Wednesday released data that show 106,185 U.S. residents selected health plans in the first month of open enrollment through the state and federal health insurance marketplaces, the Sacramento Bee reports (Cadelago/Pugh, Sacramento Bee, 11/14).
To calculate the figure, HHS used both state and federal exchange data for private coverage from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2. The federal estimate includes people who have submitted a payment for their coverage, as well as those who have selected a plan but have not yet paid for it.
That method has encountered criticism. Robert Zirkelbach, spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, noted that the insurance industry does not consider an individual as enrolled in a plan until he or she has submitted a payment (Stolberg/Craig, New York Times, 11/13).
Overall, the enrollment figure was significantly lower than the 500,000 U.S. residents administration officials had predicted would enroll in coverage. In May, the Congressional Budget Office estimated seven million people would sign up for coverage during the six-month open enrollment period.
According to the figures, the majority of new enrollees signed up in 11 of the 14 states that are running their own marketplaces (Goldstein/Kane, Washington Post, 11/13). According to the New York Times, 76,319 people chose plans through the state marketplaces, while 26,794 selected or enrolled in a plan using the federal health insurance marketplace.
Overall, 846,184 applications -- covering slightly more than 1.5 million U.S. residents -- had been created through the state and federal online marketplaces; however, not all account creators had selected a plan (New York Times, 11/13).
The data also show that 396,261 U.S. residents applying for coverage through the exchanges were determined to be eligible for Medicaid (Radnofsky/Ante, Wall Street Journal, 11/13).
White House Officials, Others Discuss Numbers
During a conference call, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stressed that the numbers show the "marketplace is working [and] people are enrolling" (Eilperin, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 11/13).
Sebelius on Wednesday also said HHS would release the expanded data by the end of the year. She noted that HHS released the combined data to provide an early picture of how the enrollment process is progressing (Easley, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/13).
White House officials said the number of applications shows people are interested in the exchanges, and they expect enrollment numbers to increase as the federal website's glitches are resolved (Wall Street Journal, 11/13).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement cited Massachusetts' health reform implementation as proof that enrollment figures will pick up over the next few months, noting that enrollment initially was slow in the state (Halper, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 11/13).
Meanwhile, several Republican lawmakers -- including Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Reps. James Lankford (Okla.), Lee Terry (Neb.) and Tom Marino (Pa.) -- took to Twitter to mock the enrollment figures, The Hill's "Twitter Room" reports (Shabad, "Twitter Room," The Hill, 11/13).
Separately, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a statement said the numbers "underscore the urgent need for President Obama to allow people to keep the plans they have and like" (Attias/Ethridge, CQ Roll Call, 11/13).