By Naomi Lopez Bauman -
Despite the recent back-slapping and self-congratulations from the Obama administration over the ObamaCare health exchange “enrollments,” there is little reason to believe that the health insurance overhaul is going to have a significant impact on expanding private health insurance coverage in Illinois.
Based on national survey data, ObamaCare may have expanded private health coverage to fewer than 50,000 previously uninsured residents in the state – just 3 percent of the state’s approximately 1.6 million uninsured residents.
The federal government originally projected about 14 million health-insurance exchange enrollments nationwide in 2014, only to be revised downward to 7 million in September of last year. Even so, these projections assumed that the vast majority of these exchange enrollments would be previously uninsured individuals.
In Illinois, the revised goal – down from almost 300,000 – became 143,000. And instead of reporting on actual plan enrollments, the administration defines “enrollments” as individuals and families that have placed a plan in their shopping cart, but have not necessarily purchased a plan. The distinction is critical. As anyone who has ever shopped online knows, putting something in your shopping cart is not the same as actually purchasing it.
In Illinois, about 217,500 residents had “enrolled” in ObamaCare exchanges through the end of open enrollment. But that 217,500 total would still not tell you the number of people covered. Only the number of people who have actually paid for a plan are actually going to be covered.
According to a McKinsey & Co. national survey, only 26 percent of those who had selected an exchange plan had been previously uninsured. Even as the enrollments surged in the final month of open enrollment, the percentage of previously uninsured Americans did not.
Of the previously uninsured, 83 percent had paid the first month’s premium. This was a dramatic increase from the percent that had paid over the previous month, which was 53 percent in February.
If the national trend holds true for Illinois, then the state could be looking at fewer than 47,000 people actually having gained coverage – far short of both the original estimate of close to 300,000 and the revised federal estimate in September of 2013 of 143,000.
One is left wondering how many of the 185,000 individuals and families in Illinois who had their policies canceled as a direct result of ObamaCare ended up populating the Illinois exchange.