In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to meet crucial demographic goals for young adults in Ohio and across the nation.
Prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov, the Obama administration said it needs to enroll about 2.7 million young adults out of 7 million projected enrollees — nearly 39 percent of all signups — for the law to succeed.
The reasoning: Because young adults tend to be healthier, they can keep premiums down as sicker, older people claim health insurance after the law opens up the health insurance market to more Americans.
But the numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 13 — the first time the agency provided demographic information — show the law missing the target both nationally and in Ohio.
Roughly 19 percent of nearly 40,000 Ohioans who signed up for Obamacare were young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the report.
Not only does that fall below the 39 percent goal, but it also lags behind the national rate of 24 percent.
In defense of the demographic numbers, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog post that enrollments are demographically on pace with the 2007 experience of Massachusetts, where state officials implemented health care reforms and systems similar to Obamacare through Romneycare.
Indeed, a report from The New Republic found just 22.6 percent of enrollees through the third month of Romneycare were young adults. That number rose to 31.7 percent by the end of the law’s first year.
If Obamacare ends up at Massachusetts’ year-end rate, it will still fall behind goals established by the White House. Still, Obamacare would be in a considerably better place than it finds itself today.
The disappointing demographic figure comes after months of technical issues snared HealthCare.gov’s launch. Most of the issues were fixed in December, which allowed Obamacare to report considerably better enrollment numbers by the end of the year.
But the enrollment numbers — nearly 2.2 million selected a plan between Oct. 1 to Dec. 28 — still fall below the administration’s projections to enroll 3.3 million by the end of December.
It’s also unclear how many of those signing up for Obamacare actually paid for their first premium, which is the final step to becoming enrolled in a health insurance plan.
Given how Romneycare worked out in Massachusetts, it’s possible signups for Obamacare could pick up before open enrollment closes at the end of March. Based on previous statements from the White House, Obamacare’s success could depend on it.
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