Oba­macare num­bers re­veal how fate of law rests on web­site

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

The fed­eral Oba­macare ex­changes cover two-thirds of the coun­try, but ac­counted for just 25 per­cent of first­month en­roll­ment in the new health mar­kets, sig­nal­ing just how closely the fate of Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture law is in­ter­twined with a bro­ken fed­eral web­site.

The first glimpse at state-by-state in­ter­est in Oba­macare shows that ca­pac­ity is­sues and soft­ware glitches in Health­Care.gov put a dent in fed­er­ally hosted en­roll­ment, leav­ing fewer than 27,000 en­rollees be­tween Oct. 1 and Nov. 2 in the 36 states that have let the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion run their ex­changes.

“My main take­away from that was, ‘Hey, the web­site’s bro­ken,’” said Ti­mothy Jost, a health-pol­icy ex­pert at the Wash­ing­ton and Lee Univer­sity School of Law.

But of­fi­cials in states that set up their own mar­kets are tak­ing heart in the early num­bers, re­leased Wed­nes­day by the fed­eral Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment.

HHS said Cal­i­for­nia con­trib­uted more than 35,000 en­rollees in the first month, mak­ing up about one-third of na­tion­wide par­tic­i­pa­tion, and eas­ily out­strip­ping the en­tire fed­eral to­tal. It helps to have a work­ing ex­change, and Cal­i­for­nia is by far the na­tion’s most pop­u­lous state.

Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia spokes­woman Anne Gon­za­les said its state-run ex­change is not in­ter­ested in one-up­ping the states that must rely on the fed­eral ex­change, since the over­ar­ch­ing idea is to get ev­ery Amer­i­can cov­ered.

“It’s not a com­pe­ti­tion we want to be win­ning right now,” she said, but added, “I do know that when you work re­ally hard on some­thing like this, it is grat­i­fy­ing to see it suc­ceed.”

Yet state-run ex­changes have a tough road ahead to reach their tar­gets by the end of open en­roll­ment on March 31.

Through the first month, New York has signed up only 2.2 per­cent of its pro­jected en­roll­ment, Vermont cap­tured 4.4 per­cent and Ken­tucky got 7.6 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by The Wash­ing­ton Times of HHS fig­ures and six-month en­roll­ment pro­jec­tions re­leased by Avalere Health, a Wash­ing­ton­based con­sul­tancy.

Among the 36 states that rely on the fed­eral ex­change sys­tem, Florida, Texas and Penn­syl­va­nia com­bined for just 8 per­cent of to­tal na­tion­wide en­roll­ment.

Mr. Obama and his chief deputies have tried to beat back fierce op­po­si­tion to the law in the Lone Star State, but Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz and other Texas lead­ers have told them to take their mes­sage else­where.

The White House and state ex­change of­fi­cials are preach­ing pa­tience, hop­ing to keep pub­lic opin­ion on their side as Oba­macare web­sites im­prove.

“The prob­lems of the web­site have pre­vented too many Amer­i­cans from com­plet­ing the en­roll­ment process, and that’s on us, not on them,” Mr. Obama said Thurs­day. “But there’s no ques­tion that there’s real de­mand for qual­ity, af­ford­able health insurance. In the first month, nearly a mil­lion peo­ple suc­cess­fully com­pleted an ap­pli­ca­tion for them­selves or their fam­i­lies.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has said it will get the web­site work­ing for the “vast ma­jor­ity of users” by the end of the month. From the start, they said con­sumers were go­ing to weigh their op­tions be­fore flock­ing to the ex­changes by early De­cem­ber.

“We al­ways knew that Oc­to­ber was go­ing to be more of a win­dow-shop­ping month,” said Ms. Gon­za­les, the Cal­i­for­nia spokes­woman.

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