Just one day after Gallup released a new survey finding that the U.S. uninsurance rate has hit a second consecutive five-year low, the Obama administration announced that more than 4.2 million Americans enrolled in private health plans through the Affordable Care Act’s state and federal marketplaces during the first five months of the health law’s open enrollment season.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released revised figures last month projecting that approximately six million Americans are expected to sign up for private Obamacare plans by March 31. The latest numbers released today indicate that the administration will at least come close to hitting that mark.
February’s enrollment figure is slightly lower than January’s high-mark of 1.1 million signups. But administration officials were quick to point out that number is expected to surge again next month, citing past experiences with enrollment periods for comparison.
“While the total number of new Marketplace plan selections was slightly lower in February when compared with the previous month of January (942,000 versus 1,146,000, respectively), the rate of Marketplace plan selections is expected to increase as the March 31, 2014 end of the initial open enrollment period approaches,” wrote the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in an brief distributed to reporters.
In an encouraging sign for the stability of Obamacare’s marketplaces, the White House reported that enrollment by younger Americans aged 18 to 34 remained stable between January and February at 27 percent of all signups — a three percentage point rise over the average for the first three months.
That number is also expected to spike in the final month as the White House, nonprofit organizations, and insurance companies throughout the country engage in an all-out push to sign up as many uninsured Americans as possible — particularly younger and healthier people. This push involves some creative efforts to reach young people. On Tuesday morning, comedy site Funny or Die released an episode of Zach Galifianakis’ web show Between Two Ferns featuring an interview with President Barack Obama in which the president hawked his signature health law to the young and uninsured. Administration officials announced that Funny or Die’s website had become the number one source of referrals to Healthcare.gov by Tuesday afternoon and directed 19,000 people to the site.
Critics are likely to point out that the CBO and other independent organizations have projected that approximately 40 percent of ACA enrollees will have to be relatively young in order for the marketplaces to function effectively — but that’s not exactly the case. Insurance actuaries told the Commonwealth Fund last month that health status is a far more important metric for determining how expensive and stable Obamacare’s risk pools will be, and researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) have pointed out that several built-in provisions of the health law will keep premium increases to a minimum — and possibly even prevent them entirely — in 2015.
Note that January’s enrollment report covered more days than the February report. The per-day enrollment actually increased in February.