My Ballpark QHP Predictions for January, February and March

I'm about 95% sure that the HHS Dept. is going to release their official January ACA exchange enrollment report on Monday. The prior monthly reports have all come out on or around the 10th of each subsequent month, so Monday is the most logical time.

With that in mind, here's my own January prediction (and for the hell of it, February and March as well). Bear in mind that while I'm fairly confident about January, the February and March predictions are sloppy "back of a napkin" calculations:

  • The most recent official (if very vague) Private Exchange-based QHP enrollment figure we have is "around 3 million as of this week" stated on 1/23 by HHS Sec. Sebelius. Let's assume 3 million even as of, say, January 21st. She also said that "over 800,000" had enrolled in January. Since the prior official number was 2.153M as of 12/28 (847,000 difference), figure around 27K in those final 3 days of 2013.
  • This means appx. 820,000 in the first 21 days of January, or around 39,000 per day.
  • At 39K/day, that would mean another 390,000 people in the last 10 days of January. However, there was definitely a drop-off in the 2nd half of the month, since you had to be enrolled by 1/15 in order to qualify for coverage on 2/1. The question is, how much of a drop-off?
  • If the drop-off was around 40% (which sounds about right to me), that means that it was actually around 44K/day from 1/1 - 1/15 and another 26.6K/day from 1/16-1/21 (as well as the remaining 10 days of the month). This would add up to around another 266K people from the 22nd - 31st.
  • If this is close to the case, that would mean a total of 3.0M + 266K = 3,266,000 people as of 1/31/14
  • However, due to the HHS Dept's annoying policy of using the end of the calendar WEEK instead of the calendar MONTH (that's why the December report only goes through 12/28, not 12/31), the January report will likely include Saturday, February 1st as well. So, let's add another 27K+ or so...

...which means I'm calling the January HHS Exchange-Based Private QHP Total an even 3.3 Million even as of 2/1/14.

"But wait," I can hear you thinking; "The Total QHP on your spreadsheet is already up to 3.3 million!" Yes, but that includes a couple hundred thousand people who won't be included on the January HHS report--direct ("off-exchange") enrollments, SHOP enrollments and some "Uncertain" enrollments as well. The Private, Individual On-Exchange-only QHP tally is only at around 3.03 million at the moment; that's the number I expect to hit 3.3 million, which would push the total QHP up to around 3.5M+.

  • For February, I'm assuming a similar pattern to January, but with enrollments running perhaps 10% higher for the first half of the month (around 725K) and about 20% higher for the second half of the month (ie, still a drop-off, but not nearly as steep as the 3/31 deadline is creeping up). This would be another 415K, for a total of around 1.14 million in February (remember, it only has 28 days, canceling out most of the % gain). That would bring us to around 4.44 million as of 2/28. (again, sloppy back-of-envelope here)
  • Finally, there's March. with the final deadline (or face an actual penalty...albeit not a huge one) approaching, expect a December-like surge of enrollments. If January and February were around 1.1 million apiece, I have to figure that March will be somewhere between 1.5 - 2.0 million. I just can't see it going any higher than that, but will be happy to be proven wrong. If I'm right, that should make the final total as of 3/31 somewhere in the 6.0 - 6.5 million range. (once again, back-of-envelope).

In other words, I don't think we're going to quite reach the original CBO 7.0 million projection number, but we should come very close...which is why the CBO just revised their own projections down a notch.