White House reassessing Obamacare enrollment goal for 2015

Obama administration is reassessing its goal for healthcare enrollment

The Obama administration, which is scrambling to prepare a new push to enroll Americans in health coverage under the federal health law, is reassessing how many more people will sign up, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Wednesday.

About 7.3 million people are enrolled in health plans being sold through marketplaces created this year by the Affordable Care Act, according to federal figures.

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FOR THE RECORD

Sept. 24, 1:32 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million more people should join the healthcare coverage market in 2015. The CBO estimated that 13 million people should be in the market in 2015.

2:34 p.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the Congressional Budget Office estimated 2014 enrollment at 7 million. The budget office reduced that estimate this year to 6 million.

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And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which analyzes the effects of federal legislation, has estimated that 13 million people should be in the market in 2015, the marketplaces' second year.

But speaking to reporters Wednesday, Burwell suggested that number may not be the right target. “One of things we are doing right now is applying analytics to how should we think about that goal,” she said.

She declined to say when a new target might be announced, saying the administration is consulting with insurance industry officials and market analysts to gauge the performance of a new market like that created by the health law.

This year, the law allowed Americans who don’t get health benefits at work to shop among plans on new state-based marketplaces created by the law. Those making less than four times the federal poverty level, or about $94,000 for a family of four, qualify for subsidies.

Total enrollment in the marketplaces, though an imprecise metric, has been watched closely as sustained growth is considered vital to reducing the number of uninsured and keeping premiums in check by getting healthier Americans into the market.

By most measures, the first year of the marketplaces has been a success, with enrollment surpassing the Congressional Budget Office’s 2014 estimate of 6 million and new insurers joining the marketplaces for 2015.

But technological issues continue to plague the enrollment system. And as the second enrollment period nears on Nov. 15, supporters of the law are growing increasingly anxious about whether the Obama administration and its allies will be able to sign up nearly twice as many people for 2015.

Burwell said Wednesday that the administration is more concerned about getting coverage to the remaining uninsured Americans, either through marketplace plans or other options.

“We think that the most important number to move is the number of uninsured,” she said. “We have a healthy employer-based system in this country. We want that used. We have Medicaid expansion, and we have the marketplace.”

Surveys suggest that 8 million to 10 million uninsured people have gained coverage this year since the marketplaces opened and Medicaid was expanded in many states under the health law.

That leaves more than 30 million people still without health insurance.

For more coverage of the federal healthcare law, follow @noamlevey

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