Five days before the start of Obamacare’s second open-enrollment period, the Obama administration released new enrollment projections for 2015 which were significantly lower than what the Congressional Budget Office estimated.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Monday it expects between 9 and 9.9 million enrollees on the Obamacare insurance exchanges in 2015.
Currently there are 7.1 million Americans enrolled through the exchanges and paying their premiums. That CBO expected that number to rise to 13 million next year, then to 24 million in 2016, and 25 million after that. Both CBO and HHS estimate that enrollees will eventually get to 25 million, but CBO outlined a shorter, 3-year timeline to get to that number.
“While there is broad agreement that the number of people without health insurance will continue to fall in the coming years, projections differ in how quickly those reductions will occur and where individuals will obtain coverage,” HHS said in a brief. “Moreover, in the early years of any new program, there is a high degree of uncertainty about projections; actual enrollment could be significantly higher or lower.”
One noteworthy figure: HHS expects significant attrition of existing enrollees — they believe the 7.1 million number will fall to 5.9 million, and that the 5.9 million figure will jump to as high as 9.9 million with new enrollees.
Tim Jost, a leading expert on Obamacare, said the estimate seems rather low.
He pointed out that there are numerous possible reasons for it. Some enrollees might get a job that offers insurance and switch to that; some might see their incomes drop and join Medicaid; some might stop paying their premiums; some might see anti-Obamacare ads and worry that it’s a bad product.
“You’re not only trying to make progress against a political headwind, which is pretty strong right now, but you’re also trying to make progress against continual attrition,” Jost said.
Jost also argued that many uninsured Americans would notice the penalty for noncompliance with the individual mandate when filing their 2014 tax returns. By then, though, it would probably be too late to sign up: the open enrollment period lasts from Nov. 15 to next Feb. 15.
HHS estimated that most of the new 2015 enrollments would be people who are currently uninsured, and that the uninsured rate would drop next year.