Although yesterday's report of 2.2 million Obamacare "enrollees" focused on the fact that less than a quarter of the 'signups' were under 34 years of age in contrast to the 40% that were expected for the program to work, another important figure was mostly overlooked in the reports. Namely, just how real is that 2.2 million "enrollment" figure. Although Time's Swampland headline jubilantly proclaimed "Huge Surge in Obamacare Enrollment Reported," Yahoo Finance put it in proper perspective with this harsh dose of reality:
Insurers are finding they're ending up with a lot more applications than payments.
Here is the Yahoo Finance Daily ticker report in more detail:
As of Dec. 29, close to two million Americans had applied for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act federal exchange or state-run marketplaces. But The Guardian has found that thousands of applicants may unknowingly be without healthcare because of problems with the Obamacare payment system.
Heidi Moore, U.S. finance and eonomics editor at The Guardian, tells us in the accompanying video that Obamacare has a two-step sign up process -- applicants sign up through the government-run exchanges, but then have to connect with the insurance companies separately to pay.
"A lot of people aren't taking that second step," explains Moore. "They're not going to the insurer because they're not fully informed. Insurers are finding they're ending up with a lot more applications than payments. [At the end of last week and into this week] if those insurers don't receive their payments, the people who spent all that time signing up won't be covered at all."
Moore says these folks who fall through the cracks due to this issue will have to wait for the next opportunities to enroll, which range from from the beginning of February to March or later this Spring, depending on where they live.
Until the number of paid enrollments are reported, perhaps the media should temper the hype about a huge surge in Obamacare numbers. One person to his credit who did place an important caveat on the report of the Obamacare "surge" was Jake Tapper on CNN's The Lead yesterday who finished the story with this apt observation:
And, of course, we still don't know how many have paid those premiums as opposed to just signing up.