Reality Check: With NO surge at all, QHP total would reach 10.17 million by 2/15

Aside from the Mystery of the Missing Renewal Data® from California & New York, the biggest unknown between now and the end of 2015 Open Enrollment on February 15th is this: How big of a "final deadline surge" will there be?

My 12.5 million projection is based on the assumption that there's a mini-surge happening this week (the deadline for Feb. 1st coverage is tomorrow in most states), followed by another 3 week "quiet period" from around January 20th until around February 10th. During that 3 week period, I QHP enrollments should average roughly 40K per day (up from the 30K/day that should have been the average over the first "quiet period" we just came out of). That would bring the grand total to around 10.5 million around February 10th.

Now, the actual tally might be a bit higher or lower than that until that point, but I'm pretty confident it'll be in the neighborhood of 10.5M. The bigger question is what happens in the final 5 days of the Open Enrollment period, from 2/11 - 2/15 (which also happens to be Valentine's Day week, for whatever that's worth).

IF things play out the way I'm expecting, there should be a 2nd massive spike, with as many as 2 million people enrolling in just those 5 days...or around 400K per day.

By comparison, last March, the enrollment total jumped from 5.3 million around March 22nd to 7.1 million as of midnight on March 31st. That's 1.8 million in 9 days, or 200K/day...so the February 2015 surge would have to be effectively double what it was last spring to hit the 12.5M mark. Thanks to the massive technical/capacity/bandwidth improvements at HC.gov and most of the state exchange sites, I know for a fact that the system can handle that volume; from what I can tell, December 15th alone may have hit close to half a million people enrolling nationally, a one-day record.

As for the potential enrollment, there's over 28 million people who theoretically could enroll in an ACA exchange QHP nationally...so the pool of potential enrollees is plenty big enough as well. The only question is how many of them will actually do so.

Just for the heck of it, what's the lowest reasonable number who are likely to enroll at this point, given the data available as of today?

For that, we turn to a modified version of my Projection Graph. Unlike one from November/December, which projected the "pre-January Deadline" trend, this one only includes QHP enrollments since the January deadline passed (that is, since 12/15 for most states or 12/18 - 12/31 for several others, depending on the state):

As you can see, things have been averaging in the range of 25,000 per day since late December. The actual average is skewed down a bit due to the one-two punch of Christmas and New Years for most states, but I'll stick with 25K for this example.

Based on that average, assuming that there isn't any surge of any sort going forward--that is, no jump over the past few days for February coverage, no 33% average jump for the 2nd "quiet period" and not even a hint of a surge over the final 5 days of the enrollment period--the total would end up roughly:

  • 7.83 million confirmed thru 1/13
  • + 1.52 million estimated thru 1/13
  • + 25K x 33 days remaining = 825K
  • = 10.17 million QHPs total by 2/15/15

However, again, that assumes no surge at all as we head into the final month / final week of the open enrollment period.

I'm still betting that the final few days will look more like this.