The Obama administration released new numbers this morning on enrollment in plans on the new marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. As expected, enrollment in November was significantly up compared to October as healthcare.gov — the federally run website used by 36 states for signups — has steadily improved. Enrollment spikes on healthcare.gov have been even higher in December, so the trend line you see above will likely be even more dramatic when enrollments from this month are included.
In total — including both people that signed up on healthcare.gov and people using the state websites, which have generally functioned better — 364,682 Americans have enrolled in private plans through November 30. In Arkansas, 1,404 have enrolled in a private plan. As with the rest of the country, enrollment in Arkansas has increased significantly since October (when only 250 successfully enrolled) but still lags behind initial projections. While the big national numbers probably matter politically for Obamacare, when we think about how well the policy will “work,” we’ll likely get different answers in different states, each of which has its own marketplace.
The pro-Obamacare spin is that enrollment is picking up rapidly; the anti-Obamacare spin is that it’s well behind the original targets. We’ll know much more once December numbers are in. There’s reason to believe the next batch of numbers will be impressive. As of the end of November, more than 2 million Americans have completed an application and been deemed eligible but haven’t yet picked a plan, and we know that in the early days of December, tens of thousands were enrolling per day.
All of the numbers above refer only to private plans. Almost 1.5 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program just through the end of October.
One thing worth noting about Arkansas in particular: because of the “private option,” the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace will have a large pool of people in addition to the population that sign up to buy private plans. Around 70,000 Arkansans have enrolled in the “private option.” In addition, more than 11,000 Arkansans were determined eligible for Medicaid by healthcare.gov, and most of them will end up in “private option” plans. That should help insulate the state from worst-case scenarios in terms of low enrollment (while the government is fully picking up the tab for “private option” premiums, from the insurance companies’ perspective, “private option” beneficiaries are still tens of thousands more customers).
Thus far Arkansas is somewhat lagging behind in enrollment (though not if we include the “private option” folks) — after the jump, see a chart from Josh Barro at Business Insider comparing Obamacare signups by state. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s worth stepping back from the politics and remembering what’s at stake here. If Arkansas fails to attract a large and relatively healthy pool of people to the marketplace, the result will be higher premiums for thousands of Arkansans dependent on the marketplace for insurance.