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April 17, 2014 4:11 PM Final Obamacare Open Enrollment Numbers Comparable to Romneycare

By Ed Kilgore

As you may recall, there was a grace period for additional signups after the March 31 deadline for open enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges, so the final numbers have just been announced. As Jonathan Cohn explains, there’s every reason to be cautiously optimistic about what the final enrollment “surge” meant for the size and composition of the pool:

President Obama just announced the final numbers for the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period.
Eight million people have signed up for private insurance plans through the new marketplaces. And among those that the federal government is managing directly, 28 percent of them are ages 18 to 34, according to senior administration officials.
This is good news—very, very good news.

The expected falloff in enrollees who don’t pay premiums probably means the final numbers will actually come in close to—and perhaps significantly above—CBO’s estimates from last fall. And the number of under-34 folk signing up looks remarkably close to that achieved in Massachusetts under the generally very successful Romneycare program:

[I]nsurance companies didn’t expect young people to sign up in proportion to their numbers in the population. They knew participation would be a bit lower and they set premiums accordingly. Only company officials know exactly what they were projecting—that’s proprietary information—but one good metric is the signup rate in Massachusetts, in 2007, when that state had open enrollment for its version of the same reforms. According to information provided by Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist and reform architect, 28.3 percent of Massachusetts enrollees were ages 19 to 34, a comparable age group.

None of these numbers, of course, will necessarily change public opinion on Obamacare overnight, and critics will continue to call the initiative a “disaster.” But there are most definitely signs that when objective reality sets in, which it will eventually, the picture will look very different from the caricatures we’ve been seeing up until now.

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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