Evidence from the state-based Obamacare websites suggest that enrollment under the health care reform law accelerated ahead of the deadline to sign up for coverage that starts in January — a much-needed spike that could go a long way toward getting the program back on track after its disastrous launch.
Official December enrollment numbers from HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states, won’t be available till mid-January, but the 15 state-based websites have been releasing their data more regularly and those figures are showing a surge in enrollments over the last few weeks in advance of the Dec. 23 deadline to enroll for Jan. 1 coverage.
California officials said 400,000 people had enrolled as of Dec. 23 — up from 107,000 at the end of the November. The Golden State was reporting more than 25,000 enrollments per day last week after averaging 15,000 the week before. In New York, 107,000 people signed up between Dec. 9 and Dec. 23 — more than enrolled in all of October and November.
Connecticut set a record Monday with 6,700 sign-ups, pushing its total above 62,000 after sitting at 24,266 at the end of November. More than 10,000 people enrolled in Washington on Monday — the total there is now more than 65,000, up from 17,700 in the first two months. Even Oregon, where the website had failed so badly that only 44 people were enrolled by Nov. 30, had upped its enrollment to 12,000 by Tuesday.
And those are just private insurance enrollees. The Obama administration said last week that 3.9 million had been determined eligible for Medicaid since HealthCare.gov and the state websites went live on Oct. 1, with the December numbers still to come.
Administration officials always predicted, even before HealthCare.gov flopped in its debut, that sign-ups would be concentrated around the law’s key deadlines: Dec. 23 (with some caveats) for Jan. 1 coverage and the final March 31 deadline to avoid the individual mandate penalty.
But following the federal website’s rocky opening months, that kind of ramp-up became critical to the law’s success. About 106,000 people enrolled in October, far below the 500,000 projection from the administration, and enrollments stayed well behind pace in November. The original expectation was 3.3 million sign-ups by Dec. 31 on the way to 7 million by March 31.
It’s still a long shot, but if the state numbers are any indication, the administration might get closer than most would have thought possible during HealthCare.gov’s darkest days. President Obama said recently that more than 500,000 people had enrolled through HealthCare.gov in the first three weeks of December, and the administration reported record traffic on the website earlier this week.
Mix all that together, and it seems the holiday season has been a gift to Obamacare.