The first month was brutal. Amid a flummoxed rollout and technical disaster, the Obama administration was roundly mocked in October after only 100,000 people signed up for health insurance under federal and state exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.
One “tech surge” and five months later, enrollment in these exchanges under Obamacare is on track to surpass original goals, greatly beating revised expectations that were tempered after the first month. According to The Associated Press, enrollment was expected to pass 7 million.
The Congressional Budget Office initially projected last May that enrollment in the taxpayer-subsidized private exchanges would be 7 million. They revised that number in February, amid still-lagging numbers from the law’s rollout.
Even at the end of February, it seemed unlikely the Obama administration would even hit the revised target of 6 million. By then, only 4.2 million people had signed up for insurance through the exchanges, and momentum appeared to be sagging.
One Democratic strategist compared the last month’s rush to doing taxes right before the deadline. Monday — deadline day — was a record-breaking day for HealthCare.gov, which saw more than 3 million visits as of 8 p.m. More than 1 million calls were placed into the health insurance marketplace’s call center as of 8 p.m., also a record.
There are a few big caveats with any topline numbers — the Obama administration hasn’t said how many people who signed up on the exchanges have actually paid their first month’s premiums.
We also don’t know how many people who signed up through the exchanges were previously uninsured — though The Los Angeles Times reported that through the marketplaces, other forms of private insurance, and through the law’s expansion of Medicaid, more than 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage.
Lastly, the final demographics of those who signed up will be important. Young and healthy people signing up are crucial to the success of the law, as their inclusion will help subsidise older and sicker enrollees. As of January, only 25 per cent of the total signups were between the ages of 18 and 34. The Obama administration had hoped that number would be around 40 per cent.
It’s also unclear how much the good news of the enrollment numbers will affect the politics of the law, which are expected to be the lightning rod of the 2014 midterm elections. A Fox News poll released last month found Obamacare’s popularity tied for its all-time high at 40 per cent. Still, people said they opposed the law by a 56-40 margin.
But on Tuesday, the Obama administration took its opportunity to gloat:
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