Officials at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange (WHBE) are really proud of themselves for surpassing their enrollment goal by 35,000 people. According to reports, more than 200,000 people signed up (including returning customers) for health insurance on the state’s ObamaCare exchange.
To earn bragging rights, that means the WHBE set low expectations, with an enrollment goal of 165,000.
To put WHBE’s incredibly limbo-low bar into perspective, during last year’s open enrollment period, about 170,000 Washington residents purchased insurance. This included returning customers. So, essentially, WHBE set a 2016 “goal” with the expectation that it would actually lose customers in year 3 of the federally subsidized ObamaCare program.
What WHBE officials are hiding is the inconvenient fact that, if you set a goal low enough, you’re bound to exceed it.
Last year, WHBE set a goal of 213,000 sign-ups. They fell short of that goal by more than 20%. Judging by last year’s standards (which should have gone up this year if ObamaCare was actually succeeding in the marketplace), WHBE still failed to meet what any rational person would deem a decent goal.
Blatantly ignoring the charade of it all, exchange spokesman Michael Marchand credited much of the truly unimpressive enrollment figures to an increase in government penalties for people who are uninsured. Adults who do not sign-up for an insurance plan will have to pay a fine of at least $695. The fine goes up to more than $2,000 for families who do not purchase insurance.
While penalty costs have gone up, so have insurance deductibles. As Shift reported, the deductible for Seattle’s second-cheapest available policy soared 175%, from $2,000 in 2015 to $5,500 in this year. The out-of-pocket maximum also jumped 30%, from $5,000 to $6,500.
Of course, the high deductibles hit middle-class consumers the hardest. That’s because they don’t qualify for tax credits. High deductibles also create an unhealthy incentive to skip a visit to the doctor in order to keep out-of-pocket costs low.
The rising costs of the (UN)Affordable Care Act makes the fact that WHBE officials are hiding the truth about enrollment numbers all the more disturbing.