The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Obamacare Enrollments Predicted to be Lower in 2018

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Open season for individuals to sign up for a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) healthcare plan started on November 1, 2017 and will close Friday, December 15, 2017.  With the average premium for the second-lowest cost silver plan, often called the “benchmark” plan, increasing by 37 percent for a 27-year-old, it seems likely that many people will decide not to purchase health insurance in 2018.

For some time, healthcare policy experts have predicted that Obamacare’s faulty design would eventually lead to a “death spiral,” where healthy people pull out of the individual market because the costs become too high, leaving only the unhealthy in the exchanges, driving costs up even higher, forcing even more healthy people out.

Since 2014, when Obamacare enrollment began, “young invincibles,” those between the ages of 18 and 34, have not enrolled at the numbers needed to keep insurance premiums low.  In 2017, the percentage of young invincibles enrolled was 27 percent of all enrollees but, according to actuaries, for Obamacare plans to be financially stable, this group should be around 40 percent of enrollees.

One healthcare expert, Doug Badger, a senior fellow at the Galen Institute, said in August 2017, “The number of people with individual health-insurance coverage is shrinking.  Despite $146 billion in federal subsidies to low-income households and well-capitalized insurers, 2.6 million fewer people had individual policies in March 2017 than in March 2016, a drop of nearly 15 percent.”

Obamacare supporters were giddy when open enrollment began on November 1.  Politico, a Washington D.C.-based newspaper reported on November 12, “Defying gloomy predictions, Obamacare enrollment surges … A barrage of Obamacare media coverage may have provided a marketing boost for a health law the president has pronounced 'dead.'"  The article went on to say, “Sign-ups surged as soon as enrollment opened Nov. 1, easily surpassing the number of Americans getting coverage during the opening days of the final two sign-up periods under the Obama administration.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services CMS reported Wednesday that nearly 1.5 million people had selected plans through last Saturday.  In other words, there might be no such thing as bad news for Obamacare.”

But, less than a month later, on December 12, Politico reported a very different scenario.  Its headline blared, “Obamacare’s open-enrollment season is headed for a disappointing ending this Friday despite its surprisingly robust start.”  It goes on to say, “The reasons for the expected lag include the Trump administration's decision to cut the sign-up period in half and slash outreach and marketing, skyrocketing premiums and general confusion about the status of the health law after repeated failed Republican attempts to dismantle it.”

In other words, blame the Trump administration and Republicans for Obamacare’s long and continued expensive failures since 2014.

Complaining that the enrollment period has been shorten is a flimsy excuse for low enrollment numbers.  After all, people have been signing up for Obamacare since 2014, so it is not a new procedure.  Politico did note that a major reason why the Trump administration cut back funding for outreach organizations that help to sign up people for an Obamacare plan was because their previous enrollment numbers have been low, less than 1 percent of total enrollees; a perfect example of a waste of tax dollars. 

Politico also quoted Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician and someone who has written several replacement plans for Obamacare that would return health insurance regulatory power back to the states and out of Washington.  Dr. Cassidy pointed out the major reason why more people are deciding not to purchase health plans.  He said, “There’s a clear relationship between increasing premiums and decreasing enrollment.  We’re losing people who don’t get subsidies.  That’s the reason we’ve got to do something about it.”

We will know better within a week or so what the final enrollment numbers look like but the Politico article noted that the website acasignups.net predicted it will be 10 million, about 20 percent less than 2017.  And, if Congress should pass their tax reform package that includes eliminating the tax penalty for not purchasing health insurance, expect more individuals to drop their insurance plans in 2018.  We already know that in the near past millions have chosen to pay the tax penalty instead of buying a costly Obamacare plan that provides little to no coverage until their out-of- pocket costs reach their plan’s sky-high deductibles, such as $10,000 or more.

Hopefully, Obamacare’s continued collapse will bring a new, revived effort to repeal this misguided healthcare law in 2018.

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