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America’s not buying Obamacare

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday released the much-anticipated enrollment numbers for the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges. But instead of reporting on actual enrollments, the administration instead is including the number of people who have put a health plan in their checkout cart, but haven’t actually checked out.

The distinction is important. As anyone who has ever shopped online knows, putting something in an online shopping cart is not the same thing as actually buying it.

The Obama administration was aiming to enroll 500,000 Americans — defined as “obtaining coverage” — during the month of October. According to the administration’s news release, there are just more than 106,000 people who have chosen a plan.

Even if every single one of these applicants actually purchased a policy, the Obama administration would have hit only 20 percent of its first month’s goal.

Federal officials hoped to enroll at least 17,000 people through Illinois’ ObamaCare exchange in October. Today’s release shows they fell far short of that mark: just 1,370 Illinoisans added a plan to their shopping cart — only 2 percent of people looking for coverage. The number of people actually purchasing the plan is undoubtedly even lower. At the current pace, it would take Illinois more than 14 years to reach its 2014 target.

This low level, whether attributed to website obstacles or lack of demand, is a cause for alarm for two reasons. First, if these enrollment trends continue, the exchange will almost certainly face an insurance death spiral, where older and sicker patients are far more motivated to enroll, driving up prices further.

Second, the number of people losing their health insurance coverage in the individual and small group markets as a result of ObamaCare could leave the state with a higher uninsured rate.

The Obama administration feels seemingly few constraints in its marketing claims: If you like your health insurance, you can keep it; Enrolling in ObamaCare will be a lot like shopping for flights on Travelocity; and, now, look at how many people have enrolled (or may enroll at some future date) in ObamaCare!

ObamaCare was touted as an effort to dramatically expand health insurance coverage. It is, instead, a costly and damaging scheme for the entire health care system and the nation. The numbers show what many of us already knew: Americans aren’t “buying” it.

Naomi Lopez Bauman is director of health policy at the Illinois Policy Institute

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