VINDICATION: The Obama administration finally OFFICIALLY confirms "But How Many have PAID???"

Last February, when the "But how many have PAID???" right-wing meme started to take hold, I pointed out, over and over again, that:

  1. yes, it's a perfectly legitimate and relevant question to ask, but
  2. the time to ask it isn't until AFTER the dust settles on the enrollment period.

Why? Because it's a rolling average. The million-plus people who selected a plan in the final 9 days of open enrollment don't even start their policy coverage until March 1st. Many of their premium payments aren't due for another week. Most people tend to wait until just a few days before the due date to pay their cable, gas, phone bills...and with automated billing, in many cases the payment will go through automatically on the due date itself anyway. 

Still, last spring I started trying to figure out the answer to How Many Have PAID??? for myself. My original ballpark estimate was roughly 93%--or rather, I estimated that at any given time, about 85% had paid, and another 8% would pay within a reasonable time period. I later walked this back to an even 90%, but in October, based on corrected data out of California (which made up 18% of the national total last year), nudged it back a bit further to 88%, where I've staked my ground ever since.

So yes, I walked back a bit, but at no time did I ever buy the House Republican's absolutely ludicrous 67% claim, based on a flawed, incomplete survey with terrible methodology.

However, throughout the enter past year or so, the HHS Dept. has never come right out and given their own hard estimate, beyond vague "Most large insurers are reporting 80-85% payment rates" and the like.

The closest they've come to a definitive statement was when they made their official projections for the 2015 period...and even then, it was still reading tea leaves to figure out that they were assuming roughly an 87-88% payment rate.

Today, however, they apparently just came right out and said exactly that:

WASHINGTON -- Despite strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act from most Louisiana political leaders, state enrollment in the health law's 2015 private insurance plans surged to 184,532 -- nearly 83,000 more than in 2014.

Based on past experience, the Obama administration expects 87 percent to pay the required premiums to begin using their health insurance. The sign up numbers reflect enrollment through the Feb. 15 deadline.

Yeesh. Was that really so hard, guys???

Anyway, glad they finally just came out and said it.

Ironically, there's a very good chance that the payment rate for 2015 will end up being higher than 87 or 88%...possibly as high as the 93% rate that I was originally eyeballing last year:

I actually think the payment rate will be slightly better this year due to improvements/streamlining of the invoicing/billing process at both the exchanges as well as the insurance companies operating on them, but I've been sticking with 88% until hard data comes in to err on the side of caution.

However, two different regular supporters, RugbyMom and Paul Mullen, brought up the same interesting point yesterday: Assuming around 6 million or so current enrollees do end up renewing their policies (or at least switch to a different policy through the exchange), those folks have already proven that they pay their bills on a consistent, reliable basis. In fact, many of us (my wife, son and I make up 3 of this group) are set up with automatic payments already.

Of course, as it turns out, the actual number of renewals is more like 6.3 million, out of the 11.4 million total to date, or about 55%. Assuming, say, a 98% payment rate on their part and an 87% rate for the other 5.1 million, that would be a total payment rate of 10.6 million, or...93%. If another 400K enroll during the #ACAOvertime period at the same 87% rate, that would still be 10.96M out of 11.8M, or 92.8%.

I'm not saying that this will be the case; the renewals may end up at the same 87-88% rate as the new folks, but I'd say at least a 90% rate seems likely this year.