Blog Post

More than 130,000 people have applied for coverage through ACA exchanges

October 16, 2013

    Last updated on Oct. 16 at 4:45 p.m. ET

    Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

    We've continued to tabulate early enrollment data from the state-based exchanges (SBEs), and there are two trends that I wanted to tease out before you scrolled to our latest version of the chart .

    First, the number of people signing up for coverage in the SBEs continues to rise—a wholly unsurprising trend, but the gains have been dramatic in some states. Notably, Washington state has jumped from reporting 9,452 sign-ups in the first week of exchange operations to 24,949 sign-ups through week two.

    • The context: These early surges have been largely fueled by Medicaid sign-ups, not enrollment in private health insurance. Of the 15,497 new sign-ups that Washington reported between week one and week two, more than 13,300 were through Medicaid.

    Don't judge the exchanges' fate too soon: Join us for a conversation on November 15 as our experts perform a pulse check on Obamacare.

    But even as the overall application numbers grow, some states have become less eager to share the specifics. California officials on Tuesday offered an update on the total number of partial and completed applications through Covered California, but unlike last week, didn't brief reporters on how many applications had been submitted.

    Rhode Island officials similarly chose not to detail how many residents had picked a health plan through the state's exchange, although reversed course on Wednesday.

    • The context: Some states with rockier exchange launches may be electing to wait until the IT glitches are ironed out, and their enrollment numbers are rounded out, lest they suffer in comparison to states like Kentucky. But via the Providence Journal's Felice Freyer, there's a benign explanation, too: officials are wary that their distinction between "completed applications" and "enrollments" was being taken out of context. That's a fair point and a reason why we've tweaked a column in our own chart from "enrolled to "picked a plan/enrolled." That's probably a better catch-all, given that most exchange users who have picked a plan haven't paid the first month's premium on it yet, and could theoretically still drop out.

    Based on the numbers that states are choosing to share, we counted at least 48,457 people who had successfully picked a plan through the 15 state-based exchanges, based on the hodgepodge of data available as of Wednesday afternoon. And counting those folks, at least 134,801 people had applied for coverage, too.

    How do health insurance exchanges work?

    Government officials often compare the exchanges to online travel sites like Expedia or Orbitz. But given that many exchange websites aren't fully functional yet, I find it helpful to picture a big box store.

    For more: Read our primer, or our white paper, for answers to eight key questions and implications for providers.

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