My best guess is that signups for private insurance through the federally-run Affordable Care Act exchanges are rising very sharply: About 69,000 during the week ending Dec. 2, up from only about 2,000 in the program’s first week, ending Oct. 7.
That means the signup pace is nearly doubling, week-to-week.
Unfortunately, I can’t be sure, because the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the federal exchange, is awfully cagey about its data.
That chart I made is based on this chart from the report on Obamacare enrollments that HHS released this morning:
This chart is kind of maddening. For one thing, it shows cumulative signups, which is the wrong number to measure. Of course cumulative signups are going up from week to week; the key question for determining whether the ACA can hit its enrollment targets is how quickly is the number of weekly signups is rising.
So I asked Aaron Jacobs, the HHS press officer who sent around the report, for the weekly numbers that underlie the chart. He told me he doesn’t have them, which is weird; someone had to have those numbers in order to make the chart. So I printed out the report, got out a ruler, and tried to estimate the numbers myself.
That process produced the chart below:
This shows a worrying trend: a signup pace that improved sharply through week 8, and then plateaued. But wait, look at the chart from HHS. It says it covers the period from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, which is 61 days. Nine weeks is 63 days. Maybe what’s called “Week 9” on that HHS chart is really just the last five days of November?
It seems like a good guess. But HHS couldn’t tell me the answer to that, either. I don’t know whether the approximately 40,000 enrollments in “Week 9” came over 5 days or 7.
But here’s one clue: on Dec. 4, Politico reported a leak from “an official familiar with the program” saying that there were 29,000 federal exchange enrollments on Dec. 1 and 2. (It’s funny how quickly this information gets out when HHS wants it to.)
If that leak is right, it’s hard to believe there were only 40,000 enrollments in the whole week ending Dec. 2; that would mean there were only 11,000 signups on the last five days of November. It probably means the 40,000 signups figure indeed covers just the last five days of November.
If we make that assumption, we can on add the leaked figure for the first two days of December and suddenly the chart looks a lot better, as shown at the top, with enrollments nearly doubling from Week 8 to Week 9.
I think that’s what happened. But I’m not sure.
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