Obamacare enrollment heading to 7 million at deadline
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Alex Wayne

The first yearly sign-up period for Obamacare closes Monday, with early returns suggesting the administration may reach a projection of 7 million enrollees made before the U.S. health exchange struggled at its startup.

The rollout has been under constant attack from Republican foes and faced a key U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed states to limit the Medicaid expansion that was an important part of the plan. It also suffered from myriad technical flaws in the website that made it unusable for more than a month.

The government last week said 6 million Americans had enrolled by March 27 and about 1 million people a day were visiting HealthCare.gov. The sign-ups met a mark set by the Congressional Budget Office in February that was reduced from an initial 7 million estimate after the law's troubled start in October. Republicans questioned the credibility of the numbers.

"I think they're cooking the books on this," said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, in an appearance Sunday on Fox News Sunday. "What kind of insurance will those people actually have? Will they be able to keep the doctor that they want? How much more is it going to cost them?"

Under the law, enrollment ends at 11:59 p.m. New York time for the 36 states served by the federal government's exchange. The administration said last week it will accept enrollment from anyone who began the process before the deadline, which means final data may not be available for weeks.

Those who don't sign up face a fine of as much as 1 percent of their yearly income.

Younger Enrollees

The percentage of younger people who enroll is also important because they're expected to use fewer medical services than older people. The more young and healthy people insurers cover, the less risk they face, reducing future premium increases.

"The president of WellPoint, which is one of the big national insurance companies,
said a couple of weeks ago that the sign-ups are getting younger by the day," said Senator Angus King, a Maine independent. "In other words, younger people, not surprisingly, are the last people to sign up.

"I suspect that's who is signing up today and tomorrow,'' King said on Fox News Sunday.

The 6 million figure announced by the administration reflects only people who selected a plan using the exchanges, not those who have paid their first premium to their insurer -- the final step required to complete enrollment.

While Republicans have pressed for that number, U.S. officials have said it isn't available because a system to automatically transfer data between the government and insurers isn't finished.

Previously Insured

The government also hasn't said how many of the 6 million enrolled previously had insurance. Assessing whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has progressed toward its goal of covering more of the 48 million people who lacked insurance in 2012 depends on that information.

The law provides a number of specific exemptions from the penalty, and the Obama administration has created others, using a broad exception for "hardships." People who aren't eligible for subsidies in the exchanges don't have to pay the penalty if the lowest insurance premium they can find would cost more than 8 percent of their income.

Hardship exemptions include a death in the family, bankruptcy or foreclosure, victims of domestic violence and people who couldn't pay medical bills in the past two years.

For those who don't sign up by Monday and aren't eligible for an extension, enrollment opens in November for coverage starting in January 2015.

The administration gave itself a round of applause last week for the achievement, putting Obama on a conference call from Italy to congratulate thousands of volunteers and workers with nonprofit organizations and government agencies who have helped sign people up.

"Join the 6,000,000 Americans who now have health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act," a March 27 email from the Health and Human Services Department said. "Just 4 days left!"


More From Businessweek:


Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Understanding Credit Scores

Credit scores matter -- learn how to improve your score.

View Course »

Intro to Retirement

Get started early planning for your long term future.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

40 Comments

Filter by:
ricmatter

obamacare-ha just another way for the govrenment to screw you.for example.i'm 65 years old still working and drawing social security.
they still take that tax out my paycheck and still have to pay taxes
on my my monthly check.the best part of that is i am limited to how much
i make.if i go over i have to payback one dollar for every two i go over
where is the justice?

March 31 2014 at 2:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
teapartyisdying.uall

The Dems have the guts and the balls to do something about controlling the cost of the most expensive healthcare system in the world. The GOP are a ball less no guts, not willing to put their reputation on the line to do anything about healthcare. They say let the free market take care of it. Well it's the free market who made our healthcare system the most expensive in the world.

March 31 2014 at 9:37 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to teapartyisdying.uall's comment
dopey.obamite

Portability?

March 31 2014 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carol

What good is it if it destroys this country? What good is it since it does not work? What good is it since it costs jobs, raises rates? What good is it since we are losing doctors, clinics, and hospitals? What good is it since only those who still have a job have to pay for those who fell the "government" should support them?
See a trend? What good is it?!?!?

March 31 2014 at 10:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
seabasskj

Having been an insurance agent for almost 25 years now, I have never been paid for filling out an application. The only time I have ever been paid is when the insured actually pays the downpayment, thus making the policy active. The number of 'enrollees' doesn't mean a thing. The only thing that matters is how many people have made a payment and so actually have an active insurance policy. Also, for insurance that is 'required' like many states require auto insurance, there is a great number of individuals who will start the policy, and then never make another payment. Just because someone starts a policy, doesn't mean they will keep it up. When someone is short on funds to pay for food, cars, mortgage, electric bills etc, it is there insurance payment that is usually the payment they cut out first.

March 31 2014 at 9:35 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
usapaydirt

Obama Care is exactly the same as passing a Law that Mandates that all Americans must walk off a bridge by 3-31-14 .

March 31 2014 at 9:31 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
mimosaday

Americans should not have been subjected to this destruction of our great health system, which was the best in the world, now destroyed along with medical care and many hospitals.
This will go down in history as an atrocity.

March 31 2014 at 9:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Steven

They impeached Nixon for less!

March 31 2014 at 9:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Steven's comment
Carol

Actually, they never did impeach Nixon. However, they did impeach Clinton for "not having sex with that woman" and then lying. Andrew Johnson (1868) and then Clinton (1998-1999). The House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach, however, Nixon resigned before House of Representatives could take a full vote.
The libers will not allow a vote on obama. However, you know that if this had been a Republican pulling the poo obama has pulled, they would have had the vote taken and had him out of office before the ink dried.

March 31 2014 at 9:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Carol

The full vote was never taken for Nixon. He chose to resign rather than face that vote. There have only been 2 presidents impeached. Andrew Johnson in 1868 for violating tenure of office act and Clinton in 1998-1999 for Perjury and obstruction of justice, relating to the Lewinsky scandal. ("I did not have sex with that woman.") Too bad we can't make it 3 with obama. The only truth he has told is that he will dismantle the Constitution. He is working hard on that.

March 31 2014 at 9:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ddstan1120

Did the people that designed this fiasco really get paid for it.
They should be sitting in jail for thievery of the American taxpayer's money.

March 31 2014 at 9:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bd2thebone

The best thing about Obamacare is it will cost the dems the senate.

March 31 2014 at 9:08 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to bd2thebone's comment
bannorhill

The deadline keeps moving.

Is it any wonder Putin does not believe Obama's line in the sand?

March 31 2014 at 9:08 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Doug

Comrade Obama our wonderful fearless leader invites you to particapate in the Affordable Health Care program or he will send you to the marxist progressive re-education camp in located in Cook County Illinois.

March 31 2014 at 9:02 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply