Just over 8 million Americans signed up for private coverage in
state and federal insurance marketplaces during the law's first
enrollment period through April 19, according to a new
administration report released on Thursday. Outside the
marketplaces, the report said, an additional 5 million people bought
plans that comply with Obamacare's consumer protection and benefit
Both sets of health plans sold within any given state belong to the
same risk pool — the mix of policyholders ranging from young,
healthy people to the old and sick. Larger numbers of older, sicker
customers tend to produce upward pressure on costs, forcing future
premiums higher for consumers.
"We believe, based on the data that we've seen and independent data
that's out there, that premiums will be stable and that the risk
pool is sufficiently large and varied to support that kind of
pricing in every state," said Mike Hash, a top healthcare reform
official at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The administration runs a federal marketplace for consumers in 36
states. Fourteen states run their own.
The outlook for Obamacare premiums is a major issue in this year's
congressional elections. Republicans and some health insurers have
warned of double-digit increases next year in states with low
enrollment. Other experts have said most people will see relatively
moderate premium hikes in the single digits.
Thursday's report said 12.8 million people obtained coverage through
the marketplaces or government health programs for the poor during
Obamacare's open enrollment, including over 4.8 million who gained
coverage through the Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance
The total is roughly equal to the latest topline 2014 forecast from
the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which predicted 6
million enrollees in private insurance and another 7 million through
Medicaid and CHIP, for a combined 13 million people.
[to top of second column]
Eighty-five percent of Obamacare marketplace applicants sought
federal subsidies to help pay for coverage, the report said. About
two-thirds selected mid-quality "silver" plans, while another 20
percent chose lower-level "bronze" policies.
Among federal marketplace applicants who reported their race, 63
percent were white versus 16.7 percent who were black, 10.7 percent
Latino and 7.9 percent Asian. But one-third of applicants did not
identify their racial background.
Republicans charge that the administration's private enrollment
totals are inflated because the administration has not said how many
people have paid their first month's premium, which determines
official enrollment. Administration officials, insurers and
independent researchers have estimated that 80-90 percent have paid.
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce
Committee released a study of insurance data showing premium
payments running at only 67 percent, suggesting an actual enrollment
total of less than 6 million. The White House and Democrats
dismissed the study as misleading.
(Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Sandra Maler and Chizu
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.