A brief note about Medicaid and Estimates vs. Confirmed Data

Several people have noted that my estimated Exchange QHP number as of today (around 6.58M) has actually surpassed the "combined" Medicaid/CHIP number (6.49M). This is obviously a long way from just a couple of months ago, when Medicaid enrollments were outpacing QHPs by a factor of 3 or 4 to one.

However, this brings up two important points about estimated enrollments vs. documented ones.

The main reason why the QHP number has "caught up" with the Medicaid number is because I'm not doing any projections of estimated Medicaid/CHIP enrollments. Everything on the spreadsheet (and therefore the Graph) for Medicaid is documented new enrollments, which is where the "Strict Expansion" and "Woodworker" numbers come from. Now, those numbers (Expansion/Woodworkers) are estimates in some cases, but they're based on hard data which has actually been reported by the exchanges already. I don't try to project the Medicaid/CHIP numbers at all because those are far messier and more complex than the exchange QHPs are. Therefore, while the Medicaid numbers have gone up somewhat since March 1st, it's been at a tiny fraction of the QHP pace, since only a small amount of new data has been "booked" since then on the Medicaid side.

The other reason for this is that some February Medicaid/CHIP enrollment data still hasn't been released publicly. The February HHS report (which includes Medicaid enrollments through the exchanges came out over two weeks ago, but the February CMS report hasn't been released yet. This has always taken much longer to put together, usually at the end of the following month (or even not until the next month). The CMS report including Medicaid/CHIP data for February should be out sometime this week...although with the craziness going on right now, it might take even longer.

However, this brings me to something which concerned me a bit today:

As you may be aware, this morning, Maine U.S. Senator Angus King appeared on FOX News Sunday, and during a discussion of the enrollment numbers, mentioned my name and this site (Mediaite cut out the part of the quote which refers to me/this site, but King specified it as the source in the actual video):

“I checked the numbers this morning,” King said. “It is now 6,563,000. There were with 500,000 people on the call centers on Friday, and a million and a half on the website…[and those numbers don't come from the White House, there's a wonderful website, ACASignups.net, a private website, by a guy named Charles Gaba who's collecting data from all across the country.] So there really is a huge surge. Number two, WellPoint, which is one of the big insurance companies, said a couple weeks ago that the signups are getting younger by the day. In other words, young people, not surprisingly, are the last people to sign up. I suspect that’s who is signing up to day and tomorrow. So the data is making a lot of difference.”

Two things. First, I'm obviously thrilled to have my name and the data I've compiled here used to combat some of the BS out there, especially by a U.S. Senator. I'm very, very flattered that Sen. King is touting this site.

However, Sen. King used a very specific number: 6.563 million, and while he did clarify that it wasn't from the White House, some people might still have interpreted it as being "official".

I want to be very clear here: That was the estimated number that I had on the spreadsheet as of this morning (I've since updated it slightly with the latest New York entry). The only number of Exchange QHPs that I'm sure of is around 6.1 million--this would be the 6 million confirmed by President Obama and the HHS Dept. as of Wednesday, plus perhaps 100K of actual state exchange data which has been reported in the few days since then.

I'm fairly confident the number is well above 6.5 million by now, but I'm not certain of it yet.

It's important to be very clear about what these numbers mean, even if you're just trying to make a general point as Sen. King was, since some people (FOX News viewers in particular) tend to misinterpret data and context. It is possible that I'm wrong, and the exchange QHP number is actually currently only 6.2 million or whatever. I highly doubt this, but I at least wanted to get that out there for the record.