Enrollment in private insurance plans on the new federally run exchanges is off to a very slow start. Less than 50,000 people have signed up for private insurance on the 36 federally run exchanges, according to the Wall Street Journal. In addition roughly 49,000 have signed up for private insurance in the states that chose to run their own exchanges.
These are disappointing enrollment numbers but not exactly surprising or overly concerning yet. People normally don’t needlessly sign up for things so far in advance, especially when they are told the process should get easier if they simply wait a few weeks. There is no good reason to sign up early and several reasons why waiting makes a lot of sense.
What this does highlight is how critical it is for the administration to get Healthcare.gov working perfectly in just two weeks. Right now it is mainly just a political embarrassment, since it hasn’t really caused significant problems for a large number of Americans – yet.
That all changes once we get close to the December 15th deadline. That is when we should see a real spike in people trying to sign up, and that is when this technological incompetence could turn into a policy disaster that directly impacts millions of people.
Many old policies will be cancelled by January 1st and some people will have no choice but to use the exchanges or be left without coverage. The administration has had an exceptionally long grace period to fix this problem, but time is quickly running out.
The one piece of good news is the Medicaid expansion is going great, with hundreds of thousands signed up already. A great reminder of how stupid it was to create private exchanges instead of just giving people access to public insurance.