The Obama administration internally projected strong state-level signups in the first year of its new health insurance markets, a sharp contrast with the reality of technical glitches now frustrating consumers. The projections obtained by The Associated Press offer the closest thing to a yardstick for how the new law performs.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s internal projections called for strong enrollment in the states in the first year of new health insurance markets, according to unpublished estimates obtained by The Associated Press. Whether those expectations will bear out is unclear.
Technology glitches have frustrated many consumers trying to sign up for coverage online, and efforts to upgrade and repair healthcare.gov are ongoing.
But the estimates, obtained through a public records request, may be the closest thing to a yardstick for measuring the performance of President Barack Obama’s health care law across the states.
The enrollment breakdown by states was included in a draft of an administration report on insurance premiums in the new markets, but it was omitted from a subsequent version that was released to the public last month by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Leading up to the opening of insurance markets Oct. 1, the White House generally deflected questions about its own expectations of how consumers would respond. Officials instead cited a congressional estimate that 7 million people would gain coverage in the first year through the markets, which offer subsidized private insurance to people who don’t have a job-based health plan.
The draft, dated Sept. 20, broke down the figure of 7 million among states. It estimated the expected enrollment in California, for example, at 1. 3 million people in 2014. The estimate for Texas was 629,000 and for Florida, 477,000. The report estimated 340,000 people would enroll in Washington state, and 218,000 in New York.
The final report, released Sept. 25, omitted the enrollment estimates, but it was identical in most other respects.
Asked why the estimates were missing from the final report, HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement: “We are focused on reaching as many people as possible about their options. There are many estimates of how many people will enroll in year one.” Some states have released their own estimates, she added, and other states are changing theirs based on experience.
The omission puzzled some in the field.
“Why there is this reluctance to share internal estimates, I don’t know,” said health economist Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare for President George H.W. Bush.
While consumer interest in the new health insurance markets has been undeniably strong, it’s hard to get a sense of how many people have been able to navigate balky federal and state websites and successfully enroll. Numbers released by states running their own marketplaces suggest upward of 100,000 people have enrolled so far, out of millions of potential interested customers.
The administration refuses to release numbers for the 36 states in which it is taking the lead. Officials at first said the frozen computer screens and other issues were the result of a high volume of interest. They later acknowledged software and design issues were also to blame.
HHS belatedly rolled out a feature that allows consumers to get a look at health plans in their area without first establishing an account. The requirement that people set up an account before shopping was at odds with the normal way e-commerce websites are run, and was blamed for overloading the system.
Uninsured people have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage to take effect Jan. 1, when most Americans will be required to have health insurance.
Applications through state-run exchanges
The 14 states operating their own health insurance exchanges have varied widely in their reporting of data since the marketplaces opened for enrollment on Oct. 1. This chart shows the number of people in these states who have begun the application process and the number of those processed by state exchange officials. It also includes the District of Columbia.
State Total applications started Applications processed Reporting date
California 43,600 16,300 Oct. 5
Colorado 8,400 No data available Oct. 9
Connecticut 8,000 1,847 Oct. 10
Hawaii No data available none Oct. 11
Kentucky 26,753 18,351 Oct. 9
Maryland 13,532 566 Oct. 6
Massachusetts 7,553 1,471 Oct. 9
Minnesota 10,000 No data available Oct. 11
New York 60,300 40,000 Oct. 8
Nevada 3,654 2,270 Oct. 8
Oregon 1,337 none Oct. 7
Rhode Island 2,929 580 Oct. 3
Vermont 4,200 700 Oct. 10
Washington 66,776 24,949 Oct. 14
Washington, D.C. 8,427 1,112 Oct. 7