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Initial Figures on Obamacare Enrollment Are Supposedly in – and They're Not Good


"More generally, we have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time."

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site October 1, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Fewer than 50,000 people have successfully enrolled in Obamacare since the error-riddled website first launched on Oct. 1, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing two sources familiar with the situation.

Getty Images.

This number – if accurate – obliviously falls short of the federal government’s initial estimates of 500,000 for the month of October. It also calls into question whether the seven million the White House hopes to have enrolled by March 31 when the open enrollment period ends is a realistic goal.

As Reuters notes, President Barack Obama’s health care law has reached only three percent of its enrollment target for 2014 in 12 U.S. states.

Two people familiar with the situation told the Wall Street Journal that the 50,000 figure represents the number of people who have tried to sign up via the Obamacare website, which is designed to service consumers in 36 states.

“The figure … 50,000 doesn't include people in the 36 states who used the federal website to learn they qualify for Medicaid, a federal-state health program for low-income people,” the report notes.

“Separately, states that are running their own exchanges and have reported enrollment data have tallied roughly 49,000 enrollees,” it adds, citing a report released Monday by consulting firm Avalere Health.

Federal officials, for their part, have chosen to avoid commenting on the WSJ’s reported estimates.

"We cannot confirm these numbers," Erin Shields Britt, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. "More generally, we have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time."

Government officials said roughly 700,000 people have “completed applications” in all 50 states, contributing this high figure to the smoother rollout of state-run health care exchanges.

But it’s important to note the “completed applications” language.

“Medicaid is being expanded in many of the 36 states. The federal website cannot yet transfer information to the states about people who discover on HealthCare.gov that they are Medicaid-eligible,” the WSJ adds.

“In some states, such as California, customers have been able to fill out applications and select plans, but insurers haven't received any of the enrollment data. Officials overseeing California's exchange promised to begin transmitting enrollment data this month,” it reports.

Other states have been having a rougher go of it.

Oregon’s online system, for example, “still doesn’t work, and the exchange has yet to enroll a single person in health insurance,” the Associated Press reports.

“Interviews with state officials and a review of public records…suggest Cover Oregon officials bit off more than they could chew and clung to their ambitious vision even when their risk management consultants raised alarms,” the AP notes.

This is obviously a disappointment for state officials who wanted to build “one of the biggest and best” online exchanges in the country — “a model that other states would want to copy.”

Getty Images.

Perhaps preparing for the worst, White House officials warned last week that initial figures on Obamacare enrollments would be low.

"We have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time,” Britt said.

If it’s any consolation to supporters of the Affordable Care Act, the latest enrollment figures from the WSJ are an improvement from the six who signed up on Oct. 1, according to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee.

Roughly 248 had enrolled by Oct. 3, according to committee documents.

The White House is scheduled to release official figures for October enrollments later this week. Officials warn that efforts to remove data errors and duplicate applications could skew the final figures.


Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter


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