Another View -- Megan McArdle: We don’t know a thing about Obamacare enrollment
I don’t mean the data don’t exist, of course. We still have surveys and exchange data from the first five months of operation, and when the history of the Affordable Care Act is written, they will provide a very interesting narrative. But they are pretty much useless for answering the important questions:
• What is the demographic profile of enrollees?
• What percentage of people are going to actually pay their first month’s premium and then keep paying every month?
• People who are incredibly disorganized.
• People who are so financially pinched that it was important to wait until the last minute so that they could pay eight months’ worth of premiums instead of 12 (many people who bought Monday night will not have coverage until May).
So we are probably looking at a pool that:
• Is somewhat younger than we’d have expected in previous months — probably at least 30 percent young adults, maybe 35 percent, maybe even the original 40 percent that the administration was projecting, though that’s still not the most likely outcome. In order to hit that original projection, 60 percent of the newly covered people would have to be ages 18 to 35. That’s a pretty heavy lift, because people in that age group often come with minor children or older spouses.
• Will suffer more attrition from nonpayment, as the irresponsible fall behind and the financially strapped find they can’t pay the new bill every month.
This puts pundits in a tough spot — what the heck are we supposed to fill our column inches with? But the folks in the toughest spot are the insurers. Depending on the state, they may have to file their preliminary 2015 premium information as early as May — when they won’t even know how many of their new customers are actually paying.
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