State Exchange Enrollees Below Projections

The initial state healthcare exchange enrollment numbers are in, and that amount is short of expected estimates.

The initial state healthcare exchange enrollment numbers are in, and that amount is short of expected estimates. In the states that have opened enrollment, only 50,000 Americans have signed up for insurance in the first 5 weeks. That number is 3% of the 1.4 million people predicted to enroll during the sign up period ending March 31.

“Enrollment in new programs begins slowly and often takes several months to build momentum,” said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health. “While initial enrollment has been lagging, with aggressive marketing there is still time for awareness of the program to grow and participation to begin.”

Research from Avalare Health suggests the slow enrollment rate is not unlike what occurred with introduction of the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan in 2005. Only 10% of beneficiaries had signed up for the drug coverage programs as late as a month before the deadline.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also spoke of lowered expectations about initial exchange numbers, saying, “I can tell you our early enrollment numbers will be very low.”

Avalere’s analysis found that Rhode Island and Vermont saw a promising start, as Rhode Island has signed up 3800 people, or 11% of those expected to eventually enroll by March, and Vermont has enrolled 3500 (12%). Conversely, only 300 (1%) have signed up in Washington, DC, and 400 (2%) in Hawaii.

Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, said it may be too early to determine exchange success by looking at the initial raw numbers. The exchanges opened October 1, but people have until December 15 to sign up in time to be insured on January 1.

“It is pretty unusual for people to buy a product this far in advance of being able to use it,” Weil said. “Mostly what you’re looking for people who are seriously shopping, and I think we’re definitely seeing that.”

Around the Web

State Exchanges Have Enrolled Just 3% of Projected Insurance Customers [Modern Healthcare]

Don’t Expect Big Enrollment Numbers for the Health Insurance Exchanges [NBC News]

States Report Low Health Insurance Enrollment Numbers [USA Today]