Either I'm damned good or the HHS Dept. is cribbing from me re. "How many have PAID???"

I can't believe I missed this the other day.

When I posted about the HHS Dept. announcing that a) 7.1 million people were still currently enrolled & paying for exchange QHPs as of October 15 and b) that they also issued an official projection of somewhere between 9.0 - 9.9 million enrolling during the 2015 open enrollment period, I only saw what was included in the official press release.

However, it seems that, according to Politico, there was more to this story beyond the PR itself:

First of all, while the range given was between 9 - 9.9 million, apparently HHS Secretary Burwell is actually looking at the lower end of that range:

Speaking at a Center for American Progress event, she stayed on the smaller end of the range, identifying 9.1 million as the actual sign-up goal.

However, the more noteworthy part to me is this passage:

While the department said 9.9 million people could have coverage on the exchanges by the end of next year, it offered different numbers — 10.3 million to 11.2 million — for how many people would pick a plan by the time open enrollment ends on Feb. 15. The dropoff comes when people don’t pay their premiums, the necessary step to trigger their benefits, or when they find other sources of coverage.

Hold the phone. This is quite different indeed, and paints the HHS projections in a very different light.

thought that they were lowballing their #OE2 period projection as being 9.0M - 9.9M through 2/15/15, including enrollees whether they pay or not. That is, I thought they meant 9.0 - 9.9M would enroll, meaning only 7.9 - 8.7M would actually pay their first premium (the 88% payment rate I've been estimating for awhile now).

However, the above passage clarifies that the 9.0 - 9.9 range is what HHS is saying will be the net enrollment number by the end of 2015, just as 7.1 million (or close to it) is the net number currently enrolled in QHPs as of now (or at least as of a month ago).

This is important for several reasons:

  • First, it means that HHS is finally being much smarter about throwing estimates/projections around willy-nilly, and are trying to take non-paying enrollees into account.
  • Second, it means that their total enrollment number projection (whether paid or not) is somewhat higher: 10.3 - 11.2 milion.
  • And third, consider this: What's 9.0 / 10.3, or 9.9 / 11.2? 87 - 88%.
  • (which in turn means that Burwell's lower-end 9.1 million paid figure would be based on about 10.4 million total enrollments)

This means one of two things:

  • Either my "88%" payment rate is dead on target, or...
  • HHS trusts that my 88% payment rate is dead on target.

(OK, to be fair, I was actually going with a 90% payment rate for most of the summer/fall before shaving 2% off of my estimate, but even so...)

Either way, this is kind of cool, and confirms that an overall 88% payment rate seems to be solid.

NOTE: I should note that this doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with HHS about their total projection (10.3 - 11.2M), just the proportion of that total which will be paid up. Check back at the site Friday morning for my own estimate.