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It’s a staggering shortfall, and it’s even further from the administration’s goal of 7 million insured.
Fewer than 50,000 Americans have successfully gained health coverage through the troubled, online federal insurance exchange. It’s less than 10 percent of the number the Obama Administration hoped would sign up in the first month.
These numbers, first reported by the Wall Street Journal and verified by other news agencies, give quantitative definition to the woes Healthcare.gov has faced since its launch on Oct. 1. The site was immediately plagued by technical errors that have kept many from completing the enrollment process.
Though the White House has not confirmed the Journal’s report, the paper quotes two government officials citing internal documentation. The administration has so far been mum about the total number of applicants who have purchased insurance through the site, but it has promised to issue its own statistics by the end of the week.
Previously, the administration has only been willing to tout the fact that 700,000 people had completed applications in all 50 states (either through Healthcare.gov or a state-run exchange) as of Oct. 24. This is the first step in the process to calculate consumer pricing and eligibility before actual enrollment.
Not only are 50,000 successful enrollments a staggering shortfall of the White House’s first-month projections, it’s even further from the 7 million the administration hopes to insure by the end of the enrollment period in March.
These numbers do not apply to the 14 states that run their own health insurance exchanges. These states, by and large, have reported a smoother rollout. In fact, 12 of the 14 states report a total of 49,000 enrollees as of Monday, according to the Avalere Health. Based on the Journal’s report, this would me 12 states have seen the same, if not slightly higher, enrollment as 36 other states put together.
Much of the blame is naturally falling upon Healthcare.gov, the Web portal through which most uninsured Americans are expected to buy insurance under the new law. Its technical failings have been well documented as Congress continues to investigate the site’s development, unearthing slap-dash coding and a hastily made decision to have consumers create accounts before shopping for insurance.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius even went so far as to tell a House committee she was “frustrated and angry” over the launch, apologizing for the calamitous debut. And the president himself said he’d personally fix the site, “but I don’t write code.”
However, these new Healthcare.gov figures aren’t all bad news for the administration. The memos cited show an increase in the number of successful enrollments in the first few days, suggesting a positive trend. Though only six people were able to successfully sign up for healthcare through the federal exchange on day one, the memo indicates that 248 people had signed up by the third day.
In defense of this slow start, the White House, on its blog, compared the rollout of the Affordable Care Act to similar law rolled out in Massachusetts in 2007. In that state, only 123 people paying premiums enrolled during the first month.
Photo by Contract Surfaces, Inc./Flickr
Tim Sampson is a reporter who focused on the technology, business, and politics beats. He's also an established comedy writer, with work on Comedy Central and in The Onion and ClickHole.