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January 14, 2014 9:59 AM No Big Surprises In Early Obamacare Numbers

By Ed Kilgore

If you want to make sense of the now-more-clearly-documented early enrollment stage of the Affordable Care Act, check out Jonathan Cohn’s summary at TNR before you get too distracted by those bellowing that the law is on the road to perdition or the highway to hell or whatever they choose to call it.

The long-awaited breakdown on the age of young enrollees (defined as under 34) came in at 24%, not catastrophic but well below the target of 40%. But as Cohn points out, the Massachusetts precedent showed that young-uns tend to enroll in this kind of scheme quite late, so let’s wait a while before panicking over the age mix.

Cohn also notes that about 79% of enrollees are qualifying for premium tax credits, a.k.a. purchasing subsidies, which is very much in line with CBO predictions.

The real news to me in his post is which of the coverage levels is proving to be most popular. For 60% of enrollees, it’s the “silver plans,” which are distinguished by protection from really large out-of-pocket costs. Health reforms of all varieties should take notice of that (particularly conservatives who think shifting more health purchasing from insurance to self-payment is the key to controlling costs).

So the sky’s not falling, by any means, and we can see in the far distance the day when people in Washington are talking about Obamacare’s actual performance without a tinge of hysteria n their voices.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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