It’s been nearly a month since the open enrollment period for President Obama’s health care law officially ended, but the Department of Health and Human Services still hasn’t released comprehensive enrollment data.
Sure, officials from President Obama down have touted 8 million Americans signing up for coverage through the program's exchanges. But, among other things, they haven't revealed how many of those individuals formally completed their enrollment by paying their premiums.
HHS officials have said that because individuals pay their premiums directly to insurance companies, they don't have the data. So the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee surveyed all insurers who offered policies on the federal exchange and compiled the data in a report released on Wednesday.
And what the committee heard back was that just 67 percent of individuals signing up for health insurance through the federal health exchange as of April 15 paid their first month's premiums and actually completed enrollment. According to the report, that represents 2.45 million people who have fully enrolled — which implies that 3.65 million had selected a plan through the federal exchange as of April 15.
In addition, just 25 percent of enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the report. The administration had been aiming for roughly 40 percent of enrollees to come from this younger demographic to help offset the cost of providing coverage to older and sicker participants.
There are important caveats to these numbers. To start, they are only for the federal exchange, and thus do not include enrollments from 14 states plus the District of Columbia that ran their own exchanges. This means the report excludes the heavily populated New York and California.
Also, depending on when individuals signed up for coverage, they may be able to pay premiums past April 15.
The committee’s report noted that, “Due to the administration’s repeated and unilateral extensions and changes, as well as the fact that many insurers have reported that individuals will still have time to pay their first month’s premium, the committee plans to ask the insurers in the federally facilitated marketplace to provide an enrollment update by May 20, 2014.”
This puts HHS officials in a pickle. If they attack the Republican report as inaccurate, it will be an implicit acknowledgement that they have numbers that they aren’t releasing. So their choice is either to stay silent and let the GOP-obtained data fill the news vacuum, or release detailed enrollment data.
It’s way past time for them to come clean.