Will today's HC.gov Week 10 Snapshot make me change my OE3 call? Probably.
As I noted last week, I'm expecting today's HC.gov Week 10 Snapshot Report to announce around 130,000 additional QHP selections between 1/03/16 - 1/09/16, which would bring the HC.gov total up around 8.74 million. This would also likely bring the national total up to around 11.55 million.
While those numbers wouldn't be bad, they would also make it very likely that the final 3 weeks are going to be weaker than I expected. Back on December 28th, I noted the following:
As of today [last week], we should be appx. 1.9 million ahead of last year...but as you note, the question now is whether it will continue to stay ahead of last year *proportionately*.
11.2M vs. 9.3M = appx. 20% ahead. My 14.7M projection assumes 25% growth over 11.7M. It's that 5% difference I'm concerned about (again, see the final week).
20% growth by 1/31 would be just over 14.0 million even. Again, I'm holding out for the Week 8 numbers before making any adjustments.
Well, since then we have both the Week 8 and Week 9 numbers, so let's take another look:
- Last Year, as of 1/02/15, there were appx. 8.88 million QHP selections nationally (6.59 million via HC.gov)
- This Year, as of 1/02/16, there were appx. 11.38 million QHP selections nationally (8.61 million via HC.gov)
That's a 31% increase on the federal exchange and a 28% increase nationally, which sounds great. However, there's an important caveat here: The open enrollment period was pushed back 2 weeks this year. While this worked to the advantage of the enrollment numbers for the first half of the period, now that we're over the hump (past both the January coverage deadline and the auto-renewal spike), it'll work against the numbers for the second half.
Therefore, instead of comparing the same date, let's compare the same time remaining ("Time to Live" (TTL) in website hosting terms) point:
- Last year, with 4 weeks left, there were appx. 9.59 million QHP selections nationally (7.15 million via HC.gov)
- This year, with 4 weeks left, there were appx. 11.38 million nationally (8.61 million via HC.gov)
Oops. That's only 20% higher via HC.gov, 19% higher nationally, which is what I was talking about. That 20% growth has held pretty steadily for at least 3 weeks now. Assuming it continues to do so for the final weeks, it would mean:
- 164K via HC.gov (220K nationally)
- 216K via HC.gov (290K nationally)
- 330K via HC.gov (440K nationally)
- 1.26M via HC.gov (1.68M nationally)
...which would bring the grand total up to almost exactly 14.0 million. Of course, this doesn't include any sort of "Overtime" period (last year HC.gov and most state exchanges gave an extra week for people to wrap things up; this added another 242K to HC.gov and 300K QHPs nationally). I have no idea whether they'll do this again the first week of February; my guess is that at most, they'll tack on an extra 2 days like they did in December. This could bump the final number up by another couple hundred thousand.
Of course, just as in the stock market, past performance is not necessarily an indication of future results. As I've noted repeatedly, last year I was nearly dead-on target for 12 of the 13 weeks...but ended up massively overestimating the final "surge" week, even when the "overtime" period was tacked on. I expected around 2 million people nationally in that last week; it ended up being only around 1.2 million (including "overtime"). Result? Instead of 12.5 million, the final tally was 11.7 million. On the other hand, the increased mandate tax (more than double what it was last year) could spark a significantly larger last-minute spike (which, as shown above, would have to happen just to hit the 14 million mark, much less 14.7 million).
In addition, there's also the wildcard: HC.gov's newly implemented policy of purging/cancelling an unknown number of unpaid/otherwise ineligible QHP selections from the officially reported numbers during open enrollment this year, as opposed to the past two years where they weren't able to do this until after open enrollment ended. Again, this should result in "cleaner" effectuated enrollment numbers (which is good), but also could mean the officially reported QHP selection number being perhaps 5% lower than I expected...which, in this case, would mean a difference of up to 700K...which, again, would bring the official number down to...14.0 million.
With all that in mind, if the Week 10 HC.gov Snapshot comes in anywhere under 200,000 today, I'll be dropping my final estimate to a range between 13.8 - 14.2 million.
We should know in a few hours...