Obamacare enrollment plunges

The Washington Post reports that nearly 1 in 4 of the people who picked a health care plan for 2015 through Obamacare marketplaces have dropped or lost their coverage. As of the end of June, 9.9 million people were paying for health care plans they obtained through the federal or state-run insurance exchanges created by the Obamacare legislation. That’s a decline from the 12.7 million who signed up for a 2015 plan.

What explains the drop? The obvious explanation, and the main one cited by the Post, is that a huge number of those who signed up either failed to pay their premiums or paid them for a while but then stopped.

Some may have stopped because they (or their spouse) got a job that provided health insurance or they became eligible for Medicaid. But it seems likely that the vast majority stopped paying (or never paid) because they didn’t want to pay. Sharp increases in some premiums likely contributed to this desire.

Here’s another factor that contributed to the decline. In more than 400,000 cases, federal health officials cut off coverage to people because they did not provide proof that their citizenship or naturalization status made them eligible for Obamacare.

According to the Post, congressional budget analysts have estimated that 21 million Americans will receive health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges next year. This would require more than a doubling of enrollments. The analysts might want to rethink their estimate.

It’s true that the penalties for being uninsured will increase next year. On the other hand, Obamacare presumably has already attracted the people who are the easiest to enroll.

Finally, we should keep in mind that the 9.9 million figure for those who have health insurance through Obamacare exchanges doesn’t represent the number of people who would not have non-Medicaid insurance in the absence of Obamacare. Many Americans lost their employer-based coverage due to Obamacare. So the number of Americans who have non-Medicaid health insurance thanks to Obamacare, though substantial, is considerably lower than 9.9 million.