HOLD EVERYTHING!! Pres. Obama lets an important number slip on Colbert??
One of the big media stories this morning ( a positive one for once, which has been all too rare of late) was President Obama filling in for Stephen Colbert's "The Word" segment (rebranded "The Decree" for one night only). In it, Obama made a hilariously self-depcrecating pitch to young people ("folks" as he loves to put it) to enroll in Obamacare, in the same vein as his "Between Two Ferns" segment last spring:
Yes, it's awesome; there were a few bits which literally made me laugh out loud. However, there was also one very important data point thrown in--and I guarantee you that it wasn't included lightly. Did you catch it? It comes in at exactly the 3:00 minute mark:
"Nearly 7 million people signed up last year, and almost 1 million more have signed up in just the past few weeks."
The "nearly" 7 million people part is a clear refererence to the recent "Dental Plan" debacle. Yes, about 7.1 million people did enroll and pay their first premium as of last spring, and there was a lot of ebb & flow throughout the summer & fall as a smaller number of people enrolled and/or dropped out due to life changes...but for a variety of reasons, the final retention number as of mid-October ended up being only 6.7 million, with the current number of paying enrollees at any given time in between ranging somewhere between 6.7 - 7.1 million. So yes, "nearly 7 million" is a fair general description to use.
The part that is of more interest to me, of course, is the "almost 1 million more in the past few weeks".
Now, Obama's point,in the midst of a light comedy segment (as opposed to a formal press conference or official report) was simply that "a whole bunch of people are enrolling even as you watch this show, so now's the time to do so yourself." It's possible that he just used the "almost 1 million more" as a quick way of getting that point across.
HOWEVER, I don't think so. Not after the "dental plan" embarrassment, and certainly not the night before the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, Marilyn Tavenner, is scheduled to testify before Darrell Issa and the House Oversight Committee over that incident. Obama didn't wing his Colbert segment; "almost 1 million more" wasn't a fluke or misreading of the teleprompter.
So, let's think about this. "Almost 1 million" suggests at least 900,000 people to me, and the "more" part makes it clear that he's referring to new enrollments, NOT renewals of existing ones.
The most recent official data point given was HHS's announcement of 765,135 plan selections as of 11/28 via HealthCare.Gov. They also announced that 48% of those were new enrollees, or around 367,000 people in the first 2 weeks of open enrollment.
Obama mentioned the "almost 1 million" right after the "nearly 7 million" which suggests he's talking about total enrollments, not just via HC.gov, which should only make up about 75% of the total. At any given time, the national QHP total (including California, Massachusetts, Kentucky, etc) should be roughly 1/3 higher than whatever the HC.gov number is.
Until now I had projected 1.18 million via HC.gov as of last Friday (12/05), and around 1.5 million as of yesterday, which extrapolate out to around 1.57 million and 2.0 million respectively.
However, assuming that the new/renewal ratio is still roughly 50/50, the only way there could have been 900K new enrollments nationally already would be if the total number was already 1.8 million...and I'd bet that was as of Friday night, not as of yesterday, since they had to have time to write up the segment. He was gonna want to be certain.
If so, that means that not only did I underestimate Friday's total by about 12.8% (or, more charitably, by only 9% if you use my "alternate" experimental projection which I posted about a week or so ago, which assumed 1.23M via HC.gov as of Friday, or 1.64M nationally), it also means that the total number should be considerably higher than 2 million as of yesterday!
We'll see what HHS announces tomorrow, but I'm now willing to bet that they'll announce roughly 1.35 million via HC.gov as of last Friday night.