Obamacare’s Enrollment Figures Just Got Even Better

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 17 2014 4:32 PM

Obamacare Enrollments Now Top 8 Million

481715489-this-image-taken-march-31-2014-in-washington-dc-shows
Despite early website troubles, an estimated 8 million people ended up signing up through state and federal exchanges.

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

At least 8 million people have signed up for health insurance through Obamacare, President Obama announced this afternoon in what amounted to his second ACA-themed victory lap at the White House this month.

The total number of enrollees has been serving largely as a shorthand for the law's initial success since the federal website stumbled (and stumbled again, and again) out of the gates this past fall. But despite that embarrassing start, the president and his allies are now more or less yelling the political equivalent of "scoreboard!"—and probably with good reason given the beating they took late last year. Embarrassment.gov aside, the White House can say now say it didn't just live up to enrollment expectations, they bested them with plenty of room to spare.

Advertisement

The newest batch of enrollment numbers is the latest evidence of just how big the eleventh- (and, in some cases, technically thirteenth-) hour surge in enrollments actually was. This is well-covered ground by now, but it's worth a trip down memory lane: Only six people signed up for coverage on the first day healthcare.gov was open, a figure that climbed to only a little more than 100,000 in the site's first month. Even with the website trouble aside, the administration and its allies steadfastly maintained that they had always expected to see a sharp rise in the number of enrollments late in the game, and that's more or less what happened. Fast-forward to the end of February, and enrollments were at 4.2 million and climbing fast.

According to the White House, total enrollment through the federal and state exchanges exceeded 6 million with about four days to spare before the original March 31 deadline, before surging above 7 million and, ultimately, now past 8 million before all was said and done (thanks, at least in part, to a two-week extension). The original CBO projection, for comparison, had been for 7 million enrollees, a figure it later downgraded to 6 million following the disastrous website rollout. Depending on which one of those you want to use, enrollments exceeded expectations by either about 14 or 33 percent.

Still, the law won't sink or swim solely on the total number of people who signed up for coverage. There's still a looong way to go. As important as how many enrolled is exactly who did the enrolling. The president offered some good—but not great—news today on that front for his allies. He said that about 35 percent of those people who were enrolled through the federal exchange—which serves 36 states—were under the age of 35. (That's the key demographic given those people are young and presumably healthy, meaning they should help offset the costs for older, sicker enrollees.)

That figure is right in the middle of the 30 percent figure reported early in the open enrollment period, and the roughly 40 percent that the administration had hoped for. (As Politico points out, that figure includes children who are covered in these plans; the 18–34 bracket makes up about 28 percent of the 8 million enrollees.) It remains to be seen exactly what impact that will have on the risk pool.

This post has been updated.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Alabama’s Insane New Abortion Law Gives Fetuses Lawyers and Puts Teenage Girls on Trial

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

Big Problems With the Secret Service Were Reported Last Year. Nobody Cared.

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 12:58 PM Why Can’t States Do More to Protect Patients From Surprise Medical Bills? It’s complicated.
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 2 2014 12:37 PM St. Louis Study Confirms That IUDs Are the Key to Lowering Teen Pregnancy Rates
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 1:01 PM Watch Pixar’s First Trailer for Inside Out
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 12:56 PM My Year Without Flying I’ve stayed on the ground, to help fight climate change. Here’s what happened.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 2 2014 12:53 PM The Panic Virus How public health officials are keeping Americans calm about the Ebola threat.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?