By: Brianna Ehley
Nearly a quarter of the 2.2 million Americans who have signed up for Obamacare so far are young people, ages 18-34, the demographic most important to the success of the president’s healthcare law. It’s not clear yet, however, how many have actually paid their premiums.
A new White House report released Monday shows some 489,460 Americans ages 18-34 have signed up for health insurance through the state and federal exchanges since Obamacare’s launch on Oct 1. Though White House officials say they are encouraged by the new numbers, they are well below the administration’s goal of enrolling 2.7 million young Americans which are needed to subsidize the cost of older, sicker Americans.
Though the White House originally estimated it needs about 7 million people to sign up through the exchanges – 40 percent of whom should be healthy 18-34 year olds—officials still say they are on track to meeting their goal. The White House is expecting people to wait until the end of the open-enrollment period. They point to Massachusetts, where sign-ups among young, healthy people surged right ahead of the deadline.
“We think more and more young people will sign up as time goes by, just as they did in Massachusetts,” Gary Cohen, director of CMS’s Center for Consumer Information and Oversight, told reporters on Monday. “We are very pleased with the percentage that we have and we expect that to increase.”
Enrollments among young people increased eight-fold in December before the end-of-year deadline, giving White House officials more reason to believe even more people will sign up ahead of the March 31 deadline.
It’s not just young people who wait until the last minute; Obamacare experienced a surge of enrollments overall in December. Indeed, more than 1 million people signed up through the federal marketplace in December, compared to just 137,000 in October and November combined, according to the report. Likewise, nearly 730,000 people signed up through the state exchanges in December—compared to 227,000 in October and November.
This is the first report the White House has released that breaks down demographic details of who has enrolled, including age, sex – about 54 percent of enrollees are females – and income level. The report also breaks down which plans have been selected – bronze, silver, gold, platinum or catastrophic. The majority, or about 60 percent of people have selected silver plans, considered the standard plan.
This information is important in order to understand and assess the overall performance of the healthcare law so far. What is not included is the number of people who have actually written a check and paid for their plans.
“A lot of attention has been on the mix of individuals to make sure we have a balanced pool,” Michael Hash, director of Health Reform at CMS, told reporters on Monday. “We are confident that we will have an appropriate mix of individuals enrolled in coverage. But we are only halfway through open enrollment period and we expect those numbers to increase.”
The Obama administration and advocates of the healthcare law are planning to ramp up their outreach efforts to the younger population as well as others in the next three months.
Aaron Smith, co-founder of Young Invincibles, an advocacy group focused on enrolling young Americans, said his organization was “very excited and encouraged” by the enrollment numbers released Monday and said they will be ramping up their efforts in the coming months to sign up even more young Americans to get closer to their goal.
Smith said he was encouraged by young peoples’ interest in the exchanges, and said that despite the disastrous rollout, people have moved past the website and are more concerned with learning what their options are.
“We’ve moved beyond the website, now people are asking what their options are and how much it will cost,” Smith said. Instead of focusing on the negative media attention, people are talking about the product and sharing their experiences with it, “and that’s what you want to see.”