7.5 Million People Insured, But Will They Stay Insured?

April 17, 2014


Does our success with enrolling Americans into state and federal health exchanges prove the actual success of the health care law? According to Julie Rovner with NPR, there are bigger questions to ask before we can give a true answer to this question. Before judging the success of Obamacare, we must first answer the following questions: How well is the law working? Will enrollees pay premiums and retain health coverage? And how many enrollees were actually uninsured prior to the Affordable Care Act?

Although these questions are notably important, the information is not available yet. But even when this data does become available, will it clearly show the whole picture? A report by UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education argues that more than half of enrollees in Covered California will not retain coverage for a full year, not because of unpaid premiums, nor due to some flaw in the design of the health law, but because of a change in coverage.

 Over a 12-month period, enrollees are likely to churn between Medi-Cal, Covered California, and Employer Sponsored Insurance (ESI). For those enrolled in the Medi-Cal program, it is estimated that 74.5% will retain Medi-Cal, 9.1% will gain EIS, and 16.5% will become eligible for Covered California due to income increases. On the Covered California side, there are two separate predictions as shown below.

Obamacare Retention Box

Additionally, those outside these categories will likely take advantage of special enrollment periods after job loss, marriage, the birth of a child, and widowhood.

As of yet, there is no way to say whether Obamacare should be proclaimed a success beyond getting people to sign up for health coverage. However, answering the question of how well the law is working will definitely prove more complex than simply looking at national numbers. Any data collected needs to make a distinction between the number of consumers that have gained new coverage and the number who have stayed uninsured.