In The Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 250 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: Examining the low Obamacare enrollment numbers.
Recently, the news industry has been saturated with stories about low Obamacare enrollment numbers, numbers that fell far short of the Obama administrations expectation. The initial enrollment numbers have encouraged opponents of health care reform. “With numbers like these, it’s no wonder the Obama administration hasn’t wanted to release how many people have signed up for ObamaCare,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). But do the initial estimates tell the whole story about how many people are connecting to coverage?
The Explanation (250 or Bust):
No. On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that between 40,000 and 50,000 uninsured Americans signed up for health care coverage in the 36 states where the federal government is running the Obamacare exchanges. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its estimates on Wednesday: 106,185 Americans bought health insurance in October, but less than 27,000 used HealthCare.gov to do so.
Enrollment in new public programs typically begins slowly and often takes several months to build momentum. For example, in the first four months of enrollment in Commonwealth Care – the Massachusetts health care exchange for subsidized care – 15,560 of an estimated 80,000 uninsured signed up. After the first full year, one-third of the total eligible population – 122,000 people – became insured. Similarly, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which together with Medicaid now covers 82 percent of eligible children, took a long time to achieve these results. So did Medicare Part D.
Focusing on the website glitches and low early enrollment makes for sensationalized news and politics, but these metrics say nothing about the laws underlying substantive policy changes. Moreover, they have distracted us from the health overhauls’ early success story. While only 106,185 people have purchased private insurance since the rollout, Medicaid has signed up 440,000 people in 10 states in the six weeks since open enrollment began, according to Avalere Health. Significantly, early enrollment data from Massachusetts also showed a high number of Medicaid enrollees. These low initial enrollment numbers should not come as a surprise.
Word Count: 250.
The Five Most Interesting Things We Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles (both political and non-political) we’ve read this week.
- “Every generation, a scientific paper comes along that rocks the very foundations of research, upturns our sense of the world, leaves us collapsed, in awe at everything that we, for all our work, still fail to comprehend about the universe. ‘Random Structures from Lego Bricks and Analog Monte Carlo Procedures’ is not that paper. It is about throwing Legos in a washing machine. And it is wonderful.” From Popular Science.
- The U.S. is doing better than you think. “The economy is growing much more quickly than expected. Inflation is basically nonexistent. The federal budget deficit has been slashed dramatically. The stock market is reaching all-time highs. One of our long-running wars is over, and the other is winding down. The status of the United States as the world’s preeminent economic and military power is unchallenged. So why is everyone depressed? . . . In isolation, these numbers look good. Compared with the rest of the world, they look really good . . . Slow and steady may be boring, but its better than many exciting alternatives.” From Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post.
- “Animated pictures in natural colors, transmitted by wireless.” This is a prediction from the past. On January 6, 1910, Iowa’s Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette published a list of things they believed would be achieved within the next century. It’s a fascinating look at the history of futurism.
- “The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes, are almost unfathomable . . . You have, in some ways, over time become a face of this city . . . It’s regrettable.” That is from U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper, who handed down a sentence that will keep Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in prison for the rest of his life.
- This is the election story of Dave Wilson, a conservative white Republican running in a district whose voters are overwhelmingly black Democrats. Wilson, who “didn’t expect to win,” unseated an incumbent that has been in office for 24 years on the Houston Community College Board. He did so by running a racially tinged campaign. “If a white guy didn’t have a chance in a mostly African-American district, Wilson would lead voters to think he’s black. And it apparently worked.”
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week covered the Republican push for voter-ID. Read the Column – The Truth About Voter-ID.