Flurry of Last Minute Signups Sends Obamacare Over the Top


Health insurance waiting room, Philadelphia, PA.


Health insurance waiting room, Jacksonville, FL.

Yesterday, March 31, was the last day of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”). Those who have begun the signup process have two weeks to complete the process. Everyone else must now wait until November 15 to sign up unless they are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, or experience a “qualifying life event.”

  • Typical qualifying life events include: moving out of state, certain changes in income, getting married or divorced, or having a baby.
  • Also, those who were unable to apply due to factors beyond their control (e.g. “Natural disasters. Domestic abuse. Website malfunctions. Errors by insurance companies. Mistakes by application counselors.” etc.) can call 1-800-318-2596 and explain their situation in order to get a 60-day extension.

Many people procrastinated and had to rush in order to avoid a financial penalty and be covered before January 2015.

In states across the nation — red and blue — people lined up to apply for health insurance in person, call centers were swamped, and the healthcare.gov website buckled under the unprecedented load. The photos shown here give a flavor of what this looked like.

More after the jump.


Health insurance waiting room, Houston, TX.


Line for health insurance, Las Vegas, NV.


Line for health insurance, El Paso, TX.


Line for health insurance, Columbia, SC.


Line for health insurance, Chicago, IL.

According to the Associated Press, the flood of applicants allowed Obamacare to exceed its enrollment expectations:

President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance on deadline day Monday, government officials told The Associated Press….

Seven million was the original target set by the Congressional Budget Office for enrollment in taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance through new online markets created under Obama’s signature legislation.

That was scaled back to 6 million after the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov last fall….

“This is like trying to find a parking spot at Wal-Mart on Dec. 23,” said Jason Stevenson, working with a Utah nonprofit group helping people enroll.

At times, more than 125,000 people were simultaneously using HealthCare.gov, straining it beyond its capacity….

Officials said the site had not crashed but was experiencing very heavy volume. The website, which was receiving 1.5 million visitors a day last week, had recorded about 2 million through 3 p.m. EDT. Call centers have more than 840,000 calls.

The RAND Corporation estimates that:

  • One-third of those enrolled in private health insurance at HealthCare.gov were uninsured. That works out to about 2.4 million people.
  • Furthermore, “4.5 million previously uninsured people have signed up for Medicaid since the law launched in October”. This is in part due to the Federally funded Medicaid expansion which most states have taken advantage of (though not Pennsylvania, for example) and in part this is due to increased awareness of Medicaid eligibility criteria.
  • “3 million young adults age 26 and younger have gotten covered through their parents’ insurance plan, as the law allows.”

In all, this means that 9.9 million previously uninsured Americans now have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. While much work remains to be done before all Americans have  health insurance, Obama’s signature piece of legislation seems back on track.

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  1. Publisher says

    Last night, the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act came to an end.

    And this afternoon, we announced that 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through the new Health Insurance Marketplaces.

    7.1 million.

    That doesn’t count the more than 3 million young adults who have gained insurance under this law by staying on their families’ plans. It doesn’t count the millions more who have gotten covered through the expansion of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It doesn’t include the more than 100 million folks who now have better care — who are receiving additional benefits, like mammograms and contraceptive care, at no extra cost.

    Now, millions of our fellow Americans have the comfort and peace of mind that comes with knowing they’re no longer leaving their health and well-being to chance. For many of them, quality health insurance wasn’t an option until this year — maybe because they couldn’t afford it, or because a pre-existing condition kept them locked out of a discriminatory system.

    Today, that’s changed. And while our long-broken health care system may not be completely fixed, it’s without question a lot better. That’s something to be proud of — and there’s no good reason to go back.

    Regardless of your politics, or your feelings about the Affordable Care Act, millions more Americans with health coverage is something that’s good for our economy and our country.

    At the end of the day, that is what this law — and the other reforms we’re fighting for, from a 21st-century immigration system to a fairer wage for every American who’s willing to work for it — are all about:

    Making sure our country lives up to our highest ideals.

    I am thankful to be your President today, and every day. And I am proud that this law will continue to make life better for millions of Americans in the years to come.

    Thank you.

    President Barack Obama

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