Obamacare could hit some impressive numbers for January 1 enrollments. The administration just announced
that it will extend the deadline for new enrollments from December 15 to December 23. That's for policies to be effective as of January 1, though enrollment will be open through March. That, coupled with an enrollment surge in the first two weeks of November means that enrollments at the beginning of the year could be downright respectable.
Enrollments have doubled since the end of October, from 106,000 to more than 200,000. That figure comes from the 14 states that have set up their own exchanges, and will be higher when the federal numbers are added in. Some of those states have experienced their own technological glitches (Oregon is only able to take paper applications at the moment) but the quickened pace of enrollment shows that demand is stronger than frustration over technology.
"The latest enrollment figures from the 14 states that are running their own marketplaces show that enrollment has climbed to at least 200,000 people nationwide," Sara Collins and Tracy Gruber write today for the Commonwealth Fund. "This latest figure does not account for any new enrollment in the federal marketplaces in 36 states, which is also likely to have increased since early November."
State officials say they are seeing an uptick in sign-ups this month. California, which has had about 80,000 sign-ups, is now reporting about 2,000 enrollments per day. [...]
"It's not all doom and gloom," Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman says. "What this says is that the problems are system problems, not problems with demand or interest. Reason would suggest that other states can do as well over time, if we're able to do this in Kentucky or Washington."
The California surge is particularly noteworthy, accounting for about a third of the enrollments nationally, and also way ahead of what the state expected to see so early in the process. Likewise, Washington state is seeing huge increases, from 55,000 enrolled at the end of October to 98,000 in the first two weeks of November. Connecticut reports that 14 percent of its projected enrollments are complete. This leads all of the states to expect a huge number of enrollments post-Thanksgiving, as people make their decisions and sign up before the new December 23 deadline for January 1 coverage.
Here's the critical thing to keep in mind, and probably the basic reason behind all the polls that keep saying Obamacare needs to be fixed, not scrapped: people need health insurance they can afford. They need to not have to worry about pre-existing conditions. They need to not have to worry about family members. All of those things create the demand that is keeping those enrollments coming in. That demand isn't going to end, and even an imperfect solution will bring people in. So now the thing Democrats need to start focusing on is shaping a "fix it" message, pointing out that Republicans are still trying to take it away.
12:51 PM PT: More news: Jeff Zeints, the tech guy the brought into oversee fixes for HealthCare.gov announced today that the capacity on the site will double by the end of the month, to up to 50,000 users at a time.