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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Oh, Hey, Minor Detail: Almost Nobody’s Paid for their New Insurance Yet. -- By Jim Geraghty, National Review

Another Looming Disaster: Few Exchange Signups Have Paid for Their Insurance So Far

We’ve been warning that Obamacare would be a train wreck for a long time. Now the boxcars full of dynamite reach the impact point.

Pardon the ALL CAPS, but this seems like a fairly huge point: ALMOST NO ONE HAS PAID FOR THEIR INSURANCE YET!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced this morning that nearly 365,000 Americans had signed up for private health insurance under Obamacare. The vast majority came from 14 states running their own insurance exchanges, while 137,000 came by way of HealthCare.gov, the much-faulted federal website that handles enrollment for the remaining states.

But amid the rush to enroll as many people as possible by the Dec. 23 deadline, there’s a huge caveat that isn’t getting much public attention: In order for coverage to take effect on Jan. 1, enrollees must pay their first month’s premium on time. (The deadline varies somewhat by state and by insurer.)

That’s slow going, according to consultants and some insurers, raising the prospect that actual enrollment will be far lower than the figures HHS is releasing.

“There is also a lot of worrying going on over people making payments,” industry consultant Robert Laszewski wrote in an email. “One client reports only 15% have paid so far. It is still too early to know for sure what this means but we should expect some enrollment slippage come the payment due date.”

Another consultant Kip Piper, agreed. “So far I’m hearing from health plans that around 5% and 10% of consumers who have made it through the data transfer gauntlet have paid first month’s premium and therefore truly enrolled,” he wrote me.

Sure, some of these folks are writing the checks right now, or will in the coming days. Obamacare defenders are quick to point out people don’t like to pay for services ahead of time. But some significant chunk won’t pay on time – they’ve got about two or three weeks to make that first payment — and thus they’ll begin 2014 without health insurance. And these are the folks who made it through the glitchy exchanges! The question is whether or not they realize that they’re not really insured before or after they end up in the doctor’s office or emergency room.

Part of the problem is that you can’t pay through Healthcare.gov – which really means that despite what everyone has said, you can’t actually buy insurance through Healthcare.gov. Wasn’t that the point? Apparently not.

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