Dear HHS, CMS, HCgov: WTH? (Updated: That was fast...)
Look, I'm not trying to be an obnoxious pain in the ass, but I've been asking for weeks now whether or not the HHS Dept. will or won't be releasing off-season enrollment data for HealthCare.gov, at least during the #ACATaxTime special enrollment period, with nary a peep in response.
Last year, they didn't provide any off-season enrollment reports, but at least they announced as much. I was upset about it, but at least I knew.
This time around, after being pleasantly surprised by the seeming night-and-day transparency policy change (not just weekly snapshot reports, but they broke them down by state and even, eventually, municipal area!), I was a bit shocked that they pulled the plug after the February 22nd "extension period" ended. A solid month went by with radio silence, which I guess wasn't too big of a deal since the tax season special enrollment hadn't started yet (it kicked off on 3/15), but still, there should be something like 7,000 - 9,000 people enrolling nationally each day (perhaps 5K - 7K via HC.gov). Those aren't huge numbers, but they're more than zilch, and it would be nice to know whether that's accurate or not.
Then, last week, I thought that there was hope: During a conference call with reporters, CNBC's Dan Mangan came right out and asked the question point-blank. The response from Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator for CMS?
"We are planning on having some release on what the numbers look like sometime next week."
OK, that was kind of a weird way to put it ("having some release"??), but whatever: They promised, on the record, to update the HC.gov enrollment data "sometime this week".
Well, it's Friday at 4:49pm, and unless they're planning on a "news dump" in the next 11 minutes (or plan on releasing the numbers over the weekend, which seems rather unlikely), I'd say Mr. Slavitt isn't going to keep that promise.
As Mangan put it a little while ago:
But when asked Thursday about whether such information would be disclosed, and when, a Health and Human Services Department spokesman said he did not have an "update" on the special enrollment period data.
The spokesman did not respond to a follow-up request for comment on why there was no update this week as Slavitt had promised.
I should note that, as usual, it's not just Healthcare.Gov which seems to be reluctant to release their off-season data. So far only 7 of the state-based exchanges have given any updates since 2/21, and 4 of those don't run past the end of February (in fairness, a monthly report would only run through 2/28 anyway).
Still, Washington State didn't have any problems releasing a full, comprehensive report which brings things up to date through March 9th, and they had the raw QHP selection total all the way through March 25th.
Once again: I'm not saying that HHS should run a full 50-page ASPE report every week (or even every month, though it'd be nice) during the off season...but what on earth would be so difficult about at least issuing the one-page QHP selection "weekly snapshot" broken out by state on a weekly basis?
They did it during the open enrollment period and I was thrilled (if they had just done that in the first place I never would have started this project, after all). Is it really that difficult to at least slap together the top of the fold numbers for a one-page memo?
Anyway, color me very disappointed. For what it's worth, if my estimates are correct, as of today, there should be roughly 410,000 additional QHP selections which have come in since February 22nd.
UPDATED: OK, literally seconds after I posted this entry, Mangan updated his story:
Late Friday afternoon, after this story was first published, a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that HHS plans to release information about the number of special enrollment sign-ups next week.
Normally this is where I'd post the Emily Litella "Never Mind!!" screen shot, but really, this whole thing is just getting weird. Why should reporters have to pull teeth to get this information? Why would they stop issuing the weekly reports? If the numbers are low, so what? No one's expecting huge numbers in the off-season anyway.
Most of all, why can't they at the very least say whether they'll be issuing off-season reports or not instead of playing this guessing game?
(sigh) OK, so next week it is, then...supposedly...