The enrollment numbers are in, and as expected, they are well short of projections. Around 106,000 enrolled in new plans during October — with approximately 27,000 coming from states where the federal government is running the exchange (with its extensive problems), and another 79,000 coming through the state exchanges. Republicans are gleefully pointing to the numbers as proof Obamacare needs to be scrapped entirely.
That confirms two things we’ve long known to be true: the website is a disaster, and short term enrollment figures are a serious political problem for the White House and Democrats. But to Larry Levitt, a vice president at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, another very telling number is this one: over 975,000 have been determined eligible for a marketplace but haven’t yet chosen a plan.
“That’s one of the most telling numbers — a million people have been determined eligible,” Levitt tells me. “That means if the website had been working well, and a million people had gotten to the end of the process, we’d be looking at a very different trajectory now. We heard about the surge in traffic when HealthCare.gov went live. This suggests there is in fact a lot of interest.”
That means that once the website is ready to go, the interest in signing up is there. The website just has to have the capability of handling the demand. The big question is how soon. The better news: there are also hundreds of thousands of people who have discovered they are eligible for Medicaid under state expansions.
Meanwhile, the 100,000 number is getting a lot of attention, but the report also finds nearly 400,000 were determined eligible for Medicaid. “In total that’s over 500,000 people who signed up for insurance in the midst of a tumultuous launch,” Levitt says. “People make a distinction between the marketplace and Medicaid, but those are both elements of the Affordable Care Act — both are mechanisms to get people insured.”
In one sense what we’re really seeing in these numbers is the first concrete representation of what the de facto GOP health care plan — repeal Obamacare and replace it with nothing, since there’s no GOP consensus on a replacement – looks like. Presuming many of the 106,000 do pay in the end, GOP repeal would entail taking health coverage away from hundreds of thousands of people.
So now, no matter how much the tea party knuckleheads are screaming for it, full repeal will never happen. I wish Greg Sargent would sit Ezra Klein down and explain that to him, because Klein has been pissing himself for a month now, and it's gotten to the point where he needs a good slap to the face over his DOOOOOOOOOOOOM crying.
There's good news, but the Village doesn't care. It's a numbers game to them, rather than the the story of the hundreds of thousands and eventually millions of people this law will help.