The Obama administration has long hoped that Affordable Care Act enrollment would follow a predictable trajectory: the totals would start slow, then pick up steam as the website improves and deadlines draw closer.
States running their own Obamacare insurance exchanges are reporting a significant surge in sign-ups just four days before the first major enrollment deadline.
The increase has ranged from 30 percent to 40 percent in the past few weeks, according to state officials who briefed reporters Wednesday. Monday is the last day to sign up for a plan that will guarantee health coverage effective Jan. 1.
New York is enrolling about 4,500 people a day. In California, it’s 15,000 a day. In Kentucky, which has become something of a national model for implementation, enrollment totals are up 40% since Thanksgiving.
NBC News’ Maggie Fox reported, “So many people are calling in for help that states have had to beef up call center staffing, and insurers have agreed to let deadlines slide a bit so that as many people as possible can get coverage starting Jan 1.”
It would appear far-right calls for Americans to stay uninsured on purpose, just to satisfy conservative ideological goals, aren’t going over especially well.
What’s more, on the federal exchange marketplace, administration officials told reporters yesterday that three-fourths of the consumers enrolling this month are folks who tried in October and November. “Folks have come back, and they’re coming back in droves,” one official said.
As a matter of politics, Republicans need to pay attention to this. They’ve spent the last several weeks assuming that “Obamacare” is poised to implode, but given the sharp increase in enrollment numbers, it’s the law proponents, not its detractors, who are feeling confident.
GOP lawmakers and candidates may believe they’ll be rewarded if they spend the next year saying, “We intend to take health care benefits away from everyone who just got insured under the new system.” I have a hunch that won’t go over well.
Indeed, there’s an anecdote that made the rounds this week from the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana, that’s worth keeping in mind. Take a look at this exchange between Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) and a local meat-market owner named Lee Albright (via Greg Sargent):
Albright doesn’t want the Affordable Care Act repealed, which Stutzman and the Republican-controlled House have voted to do numerous times. Albright told his congressman that his monthly payment for family health coverage will drop from $3,800 to $1,700 by enrolling in a plan offered through the much-maligned law.
Albright said most of his dozen employees also are enrolling in Affordable Care Act plans and will have coverage for the first time. “If the Republican Party thinks they’re going to kill Obamacare, you guys need to realize that those nine people that I add on, are they going to vote Republican ever again if you take their health care from them?”
Stutzman responded: “No, probably not.”