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This is EXACTLY what I was afraid of re. the HHS report... (UPDATED)

Hat Tip To: 
farmbellpsu

Thanks to commentor farmbellpsu for bringing my attention to this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer, which demonstrates everything I was concerned about with yesterday's monthly HHS report...although many of the problems are with whoever wrote/edited the story not understanding the basics either:

Fewer Ohioans choose a health plan in 2015 enrollment

Nearly 89,000 Ohioans chose a health insurance through the Affordable Health Care marketplace during the second open enrollment in November and December, the federal government reported Tuesday.

(sigh) No, that's not what they reported. They said that nearly 89,000 people had actively enrolled as of 12/15. Thankfully, the article does note towards the end that autorenewals aren't included, but the lede still makes it sound as though Ohio enrollment is less than 60% of what it was last year which isn't the case at all. It also makes it sound as though the 89K figure includes 2 full months (Nov & Dec) when it only includes 31 days (open enrollment didn't start until Nov. 15, and the report only runs through Dec. 15, of course).

In Kentucky, 82,651 residents used the state's own marketplace, kynect, in that period, the government said.

Of the 88,927 Ohioans who used the marketplace during that time, 52 percent re-enrolled in a plan for 2015, and 48 percent signed up for coverage for the first time. In Kentucky, 91 percent of users re-enrolled in a plan, and 9 percent signed up for coverage for the first time.

This is accurate, but adds to the confusion, because KY's 82.6K does include autorenewals (but doesn't include 12/14 or 12/15 for whatever reason). By putting this next to Ohio's figure, it makes it sound as though KY is kicking Ohio's ass relative to their respective populations.

In the first enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act, from October 2013 until March 2014, 154,668 Ohioans signed up for a health-insurance plan through the marketplace, and more than 521,000 in Kentucky.

Argh! Worse and worse. The 154K figure for Ohio only included private policies (which is what this is mainly concerned with), while the 521K figure in Kentucky includes both private policies and Medicaid, which made up over 80% of the total!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that about 6.4 million Americans chose health-care plans through the marketplace during open enrollment, Nov. 15 to Dec. 15. The department also reported Tuesday about 85 percent of Ohioans who chose health care plans in that time were eligible for financial assistance to lower monthly premiums.

(sigh) No, that's not accurate either. The 6.4 million figure includes several million autorenewals and runs through the 19th, not the 15th. It also only includes the 37 states on the federal exchange, leaving out over 1 million state exchange enrollments (including, ironically, the very same 82.6K in Kentucky that they mentioned above).

The plans chosen during open enrollment begin Jan. 1. Americans can still sign up for health insurance through the marketplace until Feb. 15, but the plans still start on the date of sign-up, not on Jan. 1.

NO, NO, NO. The plans do not start "on the date of the sign-up". They start on the 1st of the following month: Enroll from 11/15 - 12/15 and it starts on January 1st; enroll from 12/16 - 1/15 and it starts on February 1st; enroll from 1/16 - 2/15 and it starts on March 1st. (Some of the state exchanges have later deadlines, of course, but this schedule covers about 40 states or so).

Tuesday's federal report is the first detailed analysis of the second open enrollment of the 4-year-old Affordable Care Act. It's not a complete count, however – not included are those Americans who automatically re-enrolled with their health care plan. That process, which followed the one-month enrollment period, was from Dec. 16 to 18.

Thank God they at least included that caveat...at the bottom of the article, anyway.

Across the country, more than 4 million people have signed up for re-enrolled for 2015 coverage: 3.4 million through the federal marketplace accessed through healthcare.gov, and more than 600,000 who chose plans in the 14 states with their own marketplaces, such as Kentucky's kynect.

And again, this is what makes yesterday's HHS report problematic: Dozens of reporters are running around claiming that the total to date is only 4 million (thankfully they at least included "more than" which is certainly true!), when in fact there are over 7.4 million officially confirmed QHP enrollments/renewals to date.

I mean no disrespect to the reporter, but this article is just a mess which only serves to confuse people even more than they already were about the enrollment numbers.

UPDATE 1:45pm: I'm happy to report that the journalist in question has already updated the article and corrected most of the issues I listed:

It starts with the headline itself:

Feds report Ohio signups for 2015 health care so far

...continues with the corrected date range:

Nearly 89,000 Ohioans chose a health insurance through the Affordable Health Care marketplace during the second open enrollment from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, the federal government reported Tuesday.

...she corrected the Medicaid/No Medicaid comparison between Ohio and Kentucky:

In the first enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act, from October 2013 until March 2014, more than 584,000 Ohioans signed up for a health-insurance plan or Medicaid through the marketplace, and more than 521,000 in Kentucky.

...she removed the erroneous "plans still start on the sign-up date" reference completely:

The plans chosen during open enrollment begin Jan. 1. Americans can still sign up for health insurance through the marketplace until Feb. 15.

Really, the only gripes I still have are the "6.4 million" figure still being listed as "through 12/15" (and not including autorenewals, which it does), the "more than 4 million" figure at the bottom which doesn't specify the 12/15 cut-off (or hundreds of thousands of missing enrollments even then) and the "not a complete count" caveat still being buried at the bottom.

Still, this is vastly improved over the original version.