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Obamacare enrollment numbers low

By Crissinda Ponder · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Posted: 6 pm ET

Numbers for the first month of open enrollment on the Obamacare health insurance exchanges are lackluster, coming in at just 106,185.

That figure represents the number of individuals who -- from Oct. 1 through Nov. 2 -- selected and purchased a plan through the marketplace and also those who just have a plan sitting in their online shopping carts, according to a Department of Health and Human Services report.

Where are the 'real' numbers?

The number left some curious about the real total of successful Obamacare plan enrollees. But highlighting the distinction between those who selected a plan and those who actually purchased one is not as important, because the deadline to enroll is Dec. 15 for those who want their coverage to start in January, says Deborah Chollet, a leader of health insurance research at Mathematica Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

"Why send money to an insurer early when I can pay in December with the same results?" she asks.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on a conference call that information would be available after Dec. 15 about the number of individuals who actually paid for a health plan during the first month of enrollment.

A combined total of nearly 850,000 completed applications were submitted to both the federal and state-run exchanges during the first month of open enrollment. Additionally, more than 1 million Americans were determined to be eligible to enroll in an exchange-based plan, according to the HHS.

"Even with the (website) issues we've had, the marketplace is working and people are enrolling," Sebelius said.

Still, House Speaker John Boehner calls the report "a symbol of the failure of the president’s health care law."

"It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped," says the Ohio Republican.

A shining star?

The bright spot in the HHS report is the number of people who were determined eligible for either Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program -- nearly 400,000 -- which Chollet says is "a big deal."

"I think that is tremendous … and this is only half the states," she says, referring to the fact that 25 states have opted out of expanding Medicaid. "I would not be surprised if that number doubled next month."

The report also mentioned that the initial enrollment numbers exceeded the first month of enrollment for the Massachusetts Health Connector program. The number of enrollees during its first month was just 36,167.

Follow me on Twitter @CrissiPonder.

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