The first week of 2015's open enrollment period, in which individuals can select a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act, got off to a "solid" start, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said on Wednesday. Between Nov. 15 and Nov. 21, 462,000 people signed up for health insurance plans through HealthCare.gov, the federally run insurance marketplace. Additionally, millions more visited Healthcare.gov to learn about their plan options, according to HHS. Those numbers do not include the consumers who selected health insurance plans through a state-based marketplace.
A week after the Affordable Care Act's open-enrollment period last year, it was painfully obvious that something was horribly wrong. Fast forward a year, and Emma Margolin reported, it's a very different story.
The closer one looks at the data, the more encouraging the figures appear -- not just as compared to the disaster last fall, but as statistics on their own.
Sarah Kliff, for example, emphasized that 48% of the consumers who selected "Obamacare" plans during the first week of open enrollment are new customers. That number will obviously change as the process continues, but it's a positive, early indication "suggesting that the law could widen its reach to more uninsured Americans in year two of coverage expansion."
What's more, let's not forget that the 462,000 figure doesn't include many more -- exactly how many is unclear -- who enrolled in state-based exchanges. There are 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, which have their own marketplaces, and since that's roughly a third of the country, it's a reminder that the 462,000 figure is understating the bigger picture.
So, what does all of this tell us about what's to come?
Obviously, there's a certain Supreme Court case that will make an enormous difference in this area. Indeed, the whole point of the litigation is testing whether Americans who sign up for coverage through healthcare.gov are eligible for subsidies as the law and its designers intended.
But while that case lingers, at least for now, in the background, we can begin to make certain projections. Indeed, Charles Gaba, whose projections are eerily good -- and have actually been slightly more accurate that HHS's own figures on occasion -- published this report the afternoon before Thanksgiving and concluded the Affordable Care Act is on track for an estimated 12 million enrollees.
And, of course, this heartening news -- which is to say, heartening for those who want to see the American health care system succeed -- coincides with a whole host of encouraging reports throughout the system. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, there's also encouraging data on premiums. And customer satisfaction rates. And the growing number of insurers who want to participate in exchange marketplaces. And high enrollment totals with consumers who paid their premiums. And the efficacy of Medicaid expansion. And the sharp improvement in the nation’s uninsured rate.
Now all Americans need is Supreme Court justices who'll put their duties ahead of their ideological goals. Piece of cake, right?