What do Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and the #ACASurge all have in common?
They all starred in something called "Seven".
I feel a little silly this morning after my overdramatic post last night which bumped my projection up from 6.72 to 6.78M, but I'm now thinking that exchange QHPs may, against all odds, manage to push over the 7 million mark by tonight after all.
Why? What accounts for my casually increasing it by 220K this morning after stressing so much over a 60K bump last night? Several things:
First (and I'm incredibly embarrassed to to admit this), but I made a basic, 2nd-grade arithmatic error last night. I was incredibly tired and had been pushing numbers around in my head and on the spreadsheet all day, along with my wife having the flu (she's feeling better this morning, thanks)...and I made a basic "forgot to carry the 2" type of mistake. Result? My projection table was way off. With the correction, I now have it at 6.86 million.
(Also, it was just brought to my attention that I accidentally uploaded a blank version of "The Graph" to Twitter last night...it included the graphics but no text. I was very, very tired, folks...)
In addition, there are two other things:
The first is that if the administration was wise (and I'm not saying whether I think they are or not), they would have "held back" a few enrollments in "reserve" in President Obama's 6M announcement last week, as I discussed with contributor "Catherine" last night.
The President and HHS never said it was exactly 6 million (and as I've noted before, it's not like they hit precisely 6,000,000 on the nose at exactly 11:59pm on Wednesday night anyway). How much higher was it? At the time I was figuring around 40K or so, but if they were really smart (and had the higher figure booked), they would have kept the announcement to 6M even if the total was 6.1 - 6.2 million at the time. So...this is more of a wild card, which means I'm hedging my bets a bit with a 100K "range" estimate below.
The other reason is a bit more telling, if not any more concrete: A press release from the CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) from yesterday about how the website/server side is holding up under the strain, which ended up in my spam filter until I found it this morning:
As anticipated, in the final weekend of this historic first ever open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace consumers nationwide are rushing to meet the March 31 deadline to enroll in affordable health coverage.
Open enrollment ends tomorrow, March 31, 2014. Consumers should act now to enroll in coverage this year. Please see the attached graphic to remind consumers that tomorrow is the deadline to enroll in coverage.
• CMS’ Exchange Operations Center continues real time monitoring of HealthCare.gov systems around the clock to ensure a smooth consumer experience. Over the past week the site has handled record consumer demand well – supporting more than 8.7m visits since last Sunday, with 2 million alone this weekend. The site continues to perform well under the largest sustained period of volume to date with average response times less than 400 milliseconds and an error rate of 0.5%.
• The 24/7 call center that supports the Health Insurance Marketplace has taken a record number of calls from consumers – in the last week alone the call center took more than 2.5 million calls, compared to 2.4 million for the entire month of February.
• The Marketplace Call Center is likely to break the 1-800-Medicare call center’s record of 646,000 calls in a single day –set on the last day of the initial open enrollment period for Medicare Part D, May 15, 2006. Top Marketplace days to date: December 23 – 564,000 calls; March 28 – 537,000 calls.
• In the last week the HealthCare.gov team has sent emails to millions of people and more than 65,000 text messages to consumers reminding them of the steps they need to take to complete enrollment before the March 31 deadline.
2 million visitors over the weekend alone? I don't know if "visits" means unique visitors or not, and obviously not all of those were to actually enroll; many were just setting up an account to qualify for the extension period (think the "Apple store" lines from yesterday), and others were probably just double-checking info, answering questions etc...but if even 1/5 of them were converted into actual enrollments, that's still potentially 400,000 enrollments over the weekend alone, which is insane...and that's only on the federal exchange. This has nothing to do with CoveredCA, NY State of Health or the Washington Healthplan Finder (the 3 largest states with their own exchanges).
So, for my final, FINAL projection (again, assuming no massive, multi-hour outages by HC.gov or CoveredCA), I'm gonna go with a range: Between 6.9 Million and 7.0 Million.
That's right, I think there's an outside chance of exchange QHPs pushing past the "magic" 7 million mark by midnight after all.