Will Scott Gottlieb, MD be tweeting out HC.gov's numbers NEXT week? I doubt it.

Thanks to Richard Mayhew for calling my attention to this item. He titled his piece "Technically True Bullshit", and while I tried to come up with a more clever (clever-er?) title, I couldn't do it.

Scott Gottlieb, MD is very big on making sure to include the "MD" in his Twitter handle. I guess that way people will assume that he's a very smart fellow when it comes to healthcare and health insurance. Of course, he's also officially a "fellow" at the right-wing "think tank" American Enterprise Institute. He also writes pieces for Forbes, often in a tag team effort with my old buddy Avik Roy. I've actually referenced Dr. Gottlieb (MD!) a couple of times before, most notably a year and a half ago when he claimed that off-exchange individual enrollments were "as high as 20%" according to "one Wall Street analyst".

At the time, to his credit, Gottlieb was actually trying to put a positive spin on the "off exchange" numbers, while Roy was trying to spin the "20%" figure negatively. The irony, of course, was that it turned out that they were both wrong; as I expected, the actual off-exchange portion of the 2014 individual market turned out to be over 50% (around 7 million exchange-based, 8.6 million off-exchange). Still, it was amusing that Roy used Gottlieb's citation of "one (anonymous) Wall Street analyst" as the basis for his own nonsense.

Anyway, I mention all of this because Dr. Gottlieb has just horked up one heck of a goober:

#Obamacare: For week, 1.5M plan selections, brings cumulative total to 4.2 million, well below year-ago week 6 cumulative total of 6.5M

— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) December 17, 2015

He's referring, of course, to the Week Six HealthCare.Gov Snapshot report, which did indeed total just over 4.17 million people as of December 12th, 2015.

And yes, technically speaking, it is true that last year's Week Six Snapshot totalled 6.49 million people...as of December 26th, 2014.

So, you know...yes, that is a whopping 35.7% lower than the "same point" last year. In fact, ironically, Gottlieb actually overstated the weekly number (it was about 1.33 million for the week, less than the 1.5 million which, again ironically, I had been projecting).

Except that, you see, the Open Enrollment Period started two weeks earlier this year...but the deadline for January coverage remains the same. And that makes all the difference in the world, for two reasons.

For one thing, the mid-December deadline enrollment surge was included in last year's "Week Six" report...but won't be included until the Week Seven report this year.

For another, accompanying the above, the bulk automatic re-enrollments were also included in last year's Week Six report...but also won't be included until Week Seven this year.

In fact, I'm willing to bet real money that the Week Seven reports for the two years will paint a very different picture.

Last year, the Week Seven Snapshot reported 6.6 million QHP selections via HC.gov.

This year, assuming auto-renewals are included, I'm projecting roughly 8.5 million QHP selections via HC.gov.

If I'm in the ballpark, that would mean that HC.gov would have gone from running 36% behind last year to running 29% ahead.

I'm guessing Dr. Gottlieb won't be tweeting much about that, however.

As an aside, I should also reiterate that all of the above numbers (both Gottlieb's and my own) only refer to enrollees via the federal exchange. None of these figures, either last year or this year, include the dozen or so state exchanges. For instance, just this morning, thanks to Maryland releasing their updated figures, I've now confirmed more than 5 million QHP selections nationally...and that still doesn't include New York, Kentucky, Vermont, Idaho, DC, or most of California's data.

When you add those into the mix, the numbers for Week Seven were/will be more along the lines of:

  • Last Year: around 8.8 million
  • This Year: likely around 11.3 million

UPDATE: I should also note Dr. Gottlieb's rather curious follow-up tweet:

#Obamacare: Goldman Sachs estimates 7.2M for current year on a comparable basis if we include approximately 3 million auto-renewals.

— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) December 17, 2015

Huh. I'm not quite sure how to read this...on the surface, it sure looks like someone at Goldman Sachs has set Gottlieb straight by pointing out that there's likely another 3 million autorenewals or so which need to be tacked onto the total.

However, Gottlieb hasn't actually deleted or corrected his previous tweet...they're both just sort of out there in the wild right now.

Furthermore, while I appreciate whoever clued him in at 4:37am this morning, that person still seems to be simply adding 3 million autorenewals to the 4.17 million reported by HC.gov as of 12/12...completely ignoring both the 1.3 million people (give or take) who have signed up between Sunday and today...as well as the additional 2.8 million (?) who've enrolled via the state exchanges.