700K people will gladly pay Tuesday for insurance today
The federal government said a week ago that 7.3 million people who bought insurance coverage in the new healthcare marketplaces have followed through and paid their premiums, meaning they can be officially considered to have officially enrolled. On the other hand, that leaves about 700,000 who got insurance but dropped it later. The GOP had criticized the Obama administration’s announcement made earlier in the year that 8 million people had applied for insurance through the official Affordable Care Act website. According to Republican critics, that number was not as important as how many gad paid their premiums.
The Republicans were right in their assumption that not all enrollees would pay their first month’s premium or, if they did, continue to make payments. Still, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a congressional hearing that 7.3 million was a “really strong number,” and that she was encouraged by it. The figure was arrived at on the basis of insurers’ reports on the number of people who had paid-up coverage the previous month. Moreover, Tavenner felt that those who dropped out may have gotten insurance somewhere else.
The hearing at which Tavenner testified addressed a Government Accountability Office report that pointed out lingering weaknesses in the Obamacare website that put important personal information at risk. Healthcare.gov is being prepared for a second round of open enrollment starting on November 15th. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that 13 million people will buy coverage in the marketplaces for 2015. By way of comparison, last year’s busiest month – out of a sixth-month period – was March, with 2.8 million consumers; more than the website could handle at the time. The government said that it will implement many of the report’s suggestions to improve security and increase the website’s capacity.
As part of these measures, the CMS is considering a shot in the arm for the website in the form of a simple application system for new users, as well as revamping the system for creating accounts. The administration is also planning to enforce the automatic renewal of coverage and tax credits for over 5 million people who enrolled last year. This would prevent those people from dropping out, but would not relieve the influx of visitors. In fact, officials and insurers are counting on those millions of individuals coming back to the site to let the government know about changes in income that could influence their tax credits. They will have until December 15th to notify these in changes, in order that they will be effective at the beginning of next year.