HHS Lowers Open Enrollment Estimates

Open enrollment doesn't begin until Saturday, but the Obama administration is already predicting lower enrollment numbers for the second year of the health insurance exchanges, according to a memo from HHS.

Open enrollment doesn’t begin until Saturday, but the Obama administration is already predicting lower enrollment numbers for the second year of the health insurance exchanges, according to a memo from HHS.

Although the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated in April that there would be 13 million people enrolling for 2015, HHS is only projecting a range of 9 million to 9.9 million, according to the information from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

According to an unnamed HHS official who spoke with The Hill, the discrepancy between HHS’ prediction and the CBO’s is that HHS believes there will be a longer ramp-up rate. CBO’s estimates, which were released shortly after the close of the first open enrollment, predicted that sign-ups on exchanges would reach 25 million by 2017.

“HHS’s analysis implies that most of the new Marketplace enrollment for 2015 is likely to come from the ranks of the uninsured, with approximately three or four previously uninsured new enrollees for each new enrollee drawn from the ranks of those who previously had off-Marketplace individual coverage,” according to the issue brief.

Not only did HHS revise the initial estimate that 7.3 million people obtained coverage through the government-run website down to 7.1 million, but it only expects 83% or 5.9 million consumers, will retain coverage for 2015. HHS used survey data, industry information, and experience with similar programs, which placed retention rates in the range of 70% to 90%.

“One important goal of the law is reducing the number of uninsured people, and the Marketplace is just one means to that end. In practice, reducing the uninsured will be achieved through a combination of Marketplace retention, new Marketplace enrollment, increases in Medicaid enrollment, and continued support for a robust system of employer-sponsored insurance.”

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