Official Numbers on Health Insurance Coverage in First Month of Open Enrollment

During the first month of open enrollment in the new health care insurance marketplace instituted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148) 106,185 persons enrolled in a qualified health plan (QHP) through either the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM) or one of the 15 state-based health insurance marketplaces (SBM), HHS announced on November 13.

An additional 396,261 people have been determined or assessed eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), so the total number of people on track to have new health coverage on January 1, 2014, is 502,466. There are also 975,407 individuals who have applied and received an eligibility determination, but have not yet selected a plan.

“Enrollment” Defined

HHS defines “enrollment” as those who have selected a plan, whether or not they have paid the first month’s premium. Most people who selected a QHP (79,391 or 74.8 percent) enrolled though an SBM, while the other 26,794 people (25.2 percent) enrolled through the FFM, HealthCare.gov.

While the estimates of how many people would gain insurance coverage in 2014, the first full year of PPACA, have varied, the Congressional Budget Office figure of 7 million people signed up through an insurance marketplace and 9 million more covered by Medicaid is often cited.

HHS said that an estimated 26,876,527 people visited an SBM or FFM website; SBM and FFM call centers handled about 3,158,436 calls in the first month.

Low Enrollment Expected

According to a briefing paper issued by HHS, the department has expected low enrollment activity in the first two months of open enrollment (October and November) with a peak in the first two weeks of December (with individuals looking for coverage that starts on January 1, 2014) and in March, just before the March 31, 2014, cut-off date for open enrollment.

In the briefing paper, HHS compared the enrollment activity in the first month of open enrollment to initial enrollment in Medicare Part D and the Massachusetts health insurance plan, noting that these plans had low initial enrollment numbers, too. “Enrollment is back loaded, not front loaded,’ according to an HHS spokesperson.

The HHS briefing did not provide more details, such as the age of people who have applied or what sorts of health plans have been selected.