Will Trump's Obamacare Sabotage Cancel Out Trump's Obamacare Sabotage??
As I keep noting, early enrollment numbers can be extremely misleading, especially given the half-length Open Enrollment Period this year. Yes, enrollments via the federal exchange are up around 38% year over year so far, as well as being up 40% in Massachusetts, 3% (including auto-renewals) in Maryland, 33% in Colorado and so forth...but the shorter period could simply mean that more enrollments are being "front-loaded" this year. It's still all about how big the 12/15 surge is, along with how many NEW enrollees are added.
Again, here's the confirmed enrollments to date, broken out by state, type and thru-date: 2.65 million nationally, with at least 2.0 million renewing enrollees and 650,000 new additions known to date. I actually suspect the total is closer to 4.0 million given all the missing data, but these are official.
As I explained before, around 8.4 million 2016 enrollees re-enrolled for 2017. Assuming a similar ratio this year, that would be roughly 8.1 million 2017 enrollees re-enrolling for 2018...assuming the enrollment periods were the same length, etc etc, which of course they aren't. However, let's start with that.
Assuming 8.1 million people re-enroll (either actively or passively), that means:
- In order to beat 2017's number (12.2 million), there will have to be at least 4.1 million new enrollees joining them.
- In order to break 2016's record (12.7 million), we'll need at least 4.6 million new enrollees.
- In order to hit my own rather pessimistic projections (10.0 million), we'd need 6.9 million renewals + 3.1 million new enrollees.
Since I've confirmed 2.0 million and 650K respectively, that drops the remaining numbers needed to:
- 6.1 million more renewals / 3.5 million more new to hit 12.2 million
- 6.1 million more renewals / 3.9 million more new to hit 12.7 million
- 4.9 million more renewals / 2.5 million more new to hit 10.0 million
While the half-length period is confusing things (along with everything else), the biggest question for me is this:
- The massive average premium hikes (caused mostly by Trump's CSR sabotage) will likely cause up to ~1.3 million unsubsidized enrollees to drop off the exchange (or at the very least to downgrade their policies severely), but, at the same time...
- That very same CSR sabotage, combined with the clever Silver Load/Silver Switcharoo strategy utilized by most states, also means that millions of subsidized enrollees will qualify for bargain Gold plans or dirt-cheap/FREE Bronze plans.
So really, the question is whether the latter cancels out the former. The numbers are higher (Kaiser estimates 4.5 million uninsured qualify for FREE plans, and another 1.3 million can get Bronze plans for less than the mandate penalty), but it also takes more effort to inform/educate and persuade these folks to enroll than it does for current unsubsidized enrollees to drop their plans. Who knows...maybe it'll be a wash?
Similarly, while Trump slashed funding for advertising by 90% and outreach/navigators by 40%, that very controversy and confusion has also triggered a massive grassroots effort to get the word out to a degree which far surpasses earlier "unofficial" efforts to do so.
In other words, the great irony of the batcrap insane 2018 Open Enrollment Period is that Donald Trump's Obamacare sabotage may itself end up cancelling out Donald Trump's Obamacare sabotage.
In any event, this is why, while my official projection remains at a gloomy 10.0 million, I also wouldn't be shocked if it ended up breaking 13.0 million instead. All bets are off this year.