We don’t need no stinking Obamacare enrollment numbers

Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute explores for Forbes readers the Obama administration’s decision to stop releasing monthly Affordable Care Act enrollment figures.

According to Politico, the Obama administration will stop issuing monthly reports on enrollment in ObamaCare’s health insurance Exchanges. “Without regular reports,” Politico health care reporter Kyle Cheney writes, “it will be more difficult to gauge the trajectory of enrollment during critical months leading up to the 2014 elections. It’s also unclear as of now whether monthly reports will resume during the next enrollment period, which begins in November.” Charles Gaba of ACASignUps.net calls the decision “a bad move” and “a huge mistake.” …

… I have written at some length about the huge incentives ObamaCare creates to drop one’s coverage and wait until sick to re-enroll, and how those incentives threaten the stability of the law’s health insurance Exchanges. Basically, if you drop your coverage, (1) avoiding the penalty is fairly straightforward, (2) you can get re-enroll the following January no matter how sick you get, and (3) in many cases, ObamaCare lets you enroll in coverage before January, again no matter how sick you get. If healthy enrollees become aware of and act on this perverse incentive, the Exchange pools will grow sicker, premiums will rise further, and the Exchanges could collapse.

Gaba expects enrollments to continue to rise each month. But if attrition overwhelms new enrollment, it could mean that consumers find Exchange plans too expensive relative to job-based coverage, or that the poor quality of Exchange coverage is causing people to flee, or that people are gaming the system in the above manner. You would think this is something worth monitoring. And it is. HHS just doesn’t want you monitoring it.

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