50,000 People Successfully Navigated Healthcare.gov, But That’s Still Way Under Target

By
A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is commonly called, passed in March 2010, went into effect Tuesday at 8am EST. Heavy Internet traffic and system problems plagued the launch of the new health insurance exchanges Tuesday morning. Consumers attempting to log on were met with an error message early Tuesday due to an overload of Internet traffic. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER
Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out there's a silver lining to the report that only six people managed to buy insurance from healthcare.gov in the first day the site was in operation: It makes the news that as of last week 40,000 to 50,000 people were able to enroll in private health plans using the notoriously glitchy website seem kind of impressive. In context though, the figures reported by The Wall Street Journal on Monday are about as dismal as you'd expect. The Obama administration's target for October was 500,000 enrolled, and the Congressional Budget office projected that 7 million people would gain private coverage during the six-month enrollment period.

No one is arguing that the numbers are good, but Obamacare supporters can point to a few mitigating factors. "We have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time, just as was the experience in Massachusetts, where only 0.3%, or 123 people paying premiums, enrolled in the first month," Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt told the paper. "And, as we have said, the problems with the website will cause the numbers to be lower than initially anticipated." 

Also, the figures don't include people who logged into Healthcare.gov and discovered they're eligible for Medicaid, or people who obtained private health insurance in one of the fourteen states running their own exchanges – though according to a separate Journal report, several of the state sites have also been plagued with tech problems, and enrollment is lower than expected. Avalere Health, a consulting firm, said Monday that as of November 10, 49,100 people had enrolled in twelve states running their own exchanges, which is only 3 percent of the number of projected enrollments for those states in 2014.

Even with those additional figures it's hard to draw any conclusions, as the state data does not include Oregon or California. But as Politco reports, that didn't stop Republicans from seizing another opportunity to bash Obamacare. "Whether it’s higher costs, fewer choices or simply website glitches, it’s becoming more clear with each passing day that this law isn’t ready for prime time and should be delayed," said Senator Orrin Hatch.