What the heck is going on in New York? (Updated: Answer found, I think)

Earlier today, I pointed out some potentially bad news for total ACA enrollmentthat February's enrollment tally is likely to be a good 20% lower than January's for the simple reason that the February HHS report is only going to include 4 weeks' worth of data, while January's included 5 weeks. Nothing neferious or evil going on here, just measuring 28 days instead of 35 (for the record, the final report for March will include 30 days' worth of data (March 2nd - 31st)).

While writing up the main part of the entry, however (which addressed a Yahoo Finance article which claims that February enrollments will be way down for a variety of unrelated reasons), I noticed something very curious about New York's enrollment numbers. I went into this in the earlier entry but decided that it's important enough to merit it's own full repost.

Here's the official enrollment numbers from the October, November, December and January HHS Reports...and the most-recent official press release from the NY State of Health Exchange:

  • October: 10/01 - 11/02: 16,404 / 33 days = 497 per day
  • November: 11/03 - 11/30: 45,513 - 16,404 = 29,109 / 28 days = 1,040 per day
  • December: 12/01 - 12/28: 156,902 - 45,513 = 111,389 / 28 days = 3,978 per day
  • January: 12/29 - 02/01: 211,290 - 156,902 = 54,388 / 28 days = 1,942 per day
  • February: 02/02 - 02/10: 251,306 - 211,290 = 40,016 / 9 days = 4,446 per day ???

I've triple-checked the numbers above; they're correct. The most-recent press release states the numbers as of February 10th as 412,221 total: 251K Private, 161K Medicaid.

The press release even specifically states that "Over the last week alone, the number of enrolled New Yorkers has increased by more than 31,000." 31,000/7 = 4,428/day, so these numbers sure as hell seem consistent. Even if you assume that "31K in 7 days" includes Medicaid, NY has been averaging around 63% Private of the totals, so that would still be over 19,600 divided by 7, or 2,805 per day for the first third of February...vs. 1,554/day for all of January.

So, here's the "problem". According to the above data and dates, New York averaged averaged 3,978 enrollments per day...in December. That includes the slower first half of the month but also includes the through-the-roof spike in the 2nd half of the month.

You know, the massive spike between Christmas & New Years Eve, when everyone was scrambling to enroll before the January-start cut-off?

According to the above data, after New Year's, New York dropped off by over 60% for all of January...only to skyrocket up to an even higher per-day average the first 10 days of February???

I find this very difficult to believe. I'd love to believe that it's true that something changed starting on February 2nd, and if I'm wrong I'm wrong, but this just seems highly unlikely to me.

So, one of three things is happening: Either the February 10 number (251K) is a good 20K or so too high...or the February 1st number (211K) is a good 20K or so too low...or there actually has been some factor specific to New York State which has caused their actual enrollments to start spiking up again in the first week or so of February.

Any experts on the New York insurance scene are free to lend their insight to me by filling out the submission form.

UPDATE: OK, looks like I've already managed to resolve the mystery myself. From my own 1/20 NY Update:

Of the 328,796 people who have so far obtained coverage, 222,011 have obtained private insurance and 106,785 have qualified for Medicaid...

Again, that was the NY exchange official press release as of 1/20: 222K. However, the HHS Report released on 2/01 has NY at only 211K...12 days later. Were more than 11,000 enrollments subtracted due to a clerical error on NY's part, or did HHS have a typo in their February report? Assuming the latter, this suggests that my 2nd possibility listed above ("the Feb. 1st number (211K) is a good 20K or so too low") is the most likely culprit.

If this is the case, then that means that the actual NY daily average in January was closer to around 2,800, and the average for the first 10 days of February was closer to 2,400, which seems much more reasonable.

On the downside, if this is true it also supports the claims made in the Yahoo Finance article--that the overall enrollment pace has indeed slowed down considerably since the end of January. More data will be needed before I can be sure of this, however; I'll try and re-run the numbers later this week.