Obamacare Website Traffic Is Surprising Experts (and Frustrating Obama Opponents)

Source: Huffington Post/Pro Publica
It turned out that more than 5 million people signed up using Healthcare.gov by April 19, the end of the open-enrollment period. But perhaps more surprising is that, according to federal data released Wednesday to ProPublica, there have been nearly 1 million transactions on the exchange since then. People are allowed to sign up and switch plans after certain life events, such as job changes, moves, the birth of a baby, marriages and divorces.
The volume of these transactions was a jolt even for those who have watched the rollout of the ACA most closely. “That’s higher than I would have expected,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “There are a lot of people who qualify for special enrollment, but my assumption has been that few of them would actually sign up.”
…ProPublica requested data on the number of daily enrollment transactions on the federal exchange last year…because the Obama administration had declined to release this information, a key barometer of the exchange’s performance…The data shows so-called “834” transactions, which insurance companies and the government use to enroll new members…
When Healthcare.gov rolled out last fall, insurance companies complained that the information in the 834s was replete with errors, creating a crisis at the back-end of the system. Between April 20 and July 15, the federal government reported sending 960,000 “834” transactions to insurance companies…That includes 153,940 for the rest of April, 317,964 in May, 338,017 in June and 150,728 in the first 15 days of July. The daily rate has been fairly stable over this period.
…Charles Gaba, who runs the website that tracks enrollment numbers, estimates that between 6,000 and 7,000 people have signed up for coverage each day on the federal exchange after the official enrollment period ended. Gaba’s predictions were remarkably accurate during the open enrollment period. “That doesn’t account for attrition. That doesn’t mean that they paid,” Gaba said. “That’s been based on limited data from a half dozen of the smaller exchanges, extrapolated out nationally.”
About 86 percent of those who signed up for coverage on the federal exchange were eligible to receive government subsidies to help lower their monthly premiums. Those subsidies are being challenged by lawsuits in federal court contending they aren’t allowed by the Affordable Care Act. Two federal appeals courts came to conflicting decisions Tuesday on the permissibility of the subsidies (one said yes; the other no). They will remain in effect as the cases proceed in the courts, the Obama administration said.
The next time that the general public can sign up for coverage through the exchanges is from November 15 to February 15, 2015.

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