The White House Is Lowering Expectations For Obamacare

Barack Obama

REUTERS/Wang Zhao/Pool

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the APEC CEO Summit at the China National Convention Centre.

The Obama administration on Monday projected between 9 million and 9.9 million would be enrolled in private insurance plans by the end of 2015, millions fewer than the Congressional Budget Office has estimated.

The Department of Health and Human Services released an analysis Monday with the projections, which come in around 3 million to 4 million short of what the nonpartisan budget office estimated in April. HHS cited a slower-than-anticipated shift away from employer-sponsored insurance and off-market individually obtained insurance as the reason for the lowered expectations. The federal and state insurance marketplaces, the department said, are not "ramping up" as fast as the CBO had projected.
"Recent data suggest mixed evidence about the extent to which there is a shift in ESI and off-Marketplace individual coverage into the Marketplace," HHS said in the analysis.

The department said sign-ups through the exchanges would still be on track to hit 25 million by the end of 2017, a benchmark number that is considered important to the law's success. But it said it would continue to measure accomplishments by the number of people that have become uninsured after the advent of the law.

"It is also important to view Marketplace enrollment in the broader context. One important goal of the law is reducing the number of uninsured people, and the Marketplace is just one means to that end," the department said.

"In practice, reducing the uninsured will be achieved through a combination of Marketplace retention, new Marketplace enrollment, increases in Medicaid enrollment, and continued support for a robust system of employer-sponsored insurance. Thus, we will measure our success by whether we are making continued progress in reducing the number of uninsured Americans. We will continue to work to decrease the number of uninsured Americans and expect the number to continue to decline."

HHS also said 7.1 million people were fully enrolled in insurance plans obtained through the Affordable Care Act as of Oct. 15, down from the 8 million figure it trumpeted in the spring.