WASHINGTON — The biggest problem with Obamacare may not be the website – it may be Obamacare, itself.
Low enrollment in state exchanges indicates the demand for Obamacare may be nearly nonexistent.
The government expects 1.4 million Americans to enroll in Obamacare on the state-run exchanges by the end of the year, but only a little more than 49,000 have signed up, with just six weeks to go.
According to an analysis by the research firm Avalere Health, only 3 percent of expected participants have enrolled in 11 of the 14 states (and Washington, D.C.) that made their own exchanges for individual insurance.
This is potentially devastating news to the administration, which needs to sign up 7 million people by March 31, 2014, to make Obamcare financially viable.
What makes these low numbers so dramatic is the state-run exchanges have had far fewer online problems than the disastrous federal-exchange website, which only managed to sign up six people across the nation on it’s first day, Oct. 1.
That means the problem likely could be that the vast majority of Americans simply don’t want Obamacare, even if they can enroll.
Federal vs. state exchanges
Initially, Obamacare called for every state to set up its own health-care exchange. When most states declined to do that, the federal exchange was created to give people in those 36 states a place to enroll in Obamcare. The federal website problems have made the most headlines.
The Avalere analysis excluded Massachusetts (which is requiring those in its state health plan to re-enroll), as well as Oregon and California, which have their own issues.
In California, customers have been able to fill out applications but insurance companies have not received enrollment data.
Oregon’s online system still does not work, and it has yet to enroll a single person, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Hawaii’s website did not launch until mid-October, and Colorado and Minnesota have had some online problems.
But, even accounting for those factors, the low state enrollment is a terrible omen for the administration, considering the catastrophic problems it has already had with the federal exchange.
The administration has tried to keep expectations low after it promised to release numbers this week showing how many people have signed up in October for Obamacare on the federal exchange.
All signs indicate the numbers will be dismal, after the enrollment figures leaked so far have been astonishingly low.
- One in North Carolina
- Three in Alaska
- Four in Delaware
- Five in the District of Columbia.
The administration has blamed the website’s horrific problems for low federal enrollments, while the president has claimed the “product” itself is good.
The public may disagree, if the state numbers are any indication.
If the issue in the states is not so much that people can’t enroll, but they don’t want to enroll, the administration and Obamacare will have a dramatic new challenge.
Destined to fail?
That would support a WND analysis that concluded Obamacare is virtually certain to fail, even if the website is fully up and running by the end on the month, as the administration has promised.
The reasons include:
- Too few people signing up
- Few reasons to sign up
- Rising premiums
- Health-care plan cancellations
- Patients losing their doctors
- Decimation of the insurance industry
- Push for single-payer “socialized” health care
Not least of all may be the damage caused by President Obama to his own health-care plan.
Obama had to apologize last week after he misled Americans since 2009, saying they could keep their health-care plans under Obamacare.
Rush Limbaugh describes the video below as a minute-and-20-seconds of Obama telling lies about Obamacare, over five years:
Here are more details on the specifics problems WND has uncovered that makes Obamacare unlikely to succeed.
Few are signing up
Democrats claimed Obamacare was designed primarily to provide insurance coverage to the estimated 15 percent of Americans without coverage.
But few uninsured Americans seem interested in Obamacare.
A Gallup poll released Friday showed only 22 percent of uninsured Americans want to sign up for Obamacare.
According to Gallup, "The health exchange websites are not only fraught with the technical problems that have led to so much news coverage in recent weeks, but have also generated relatively little interest or use among uninsured Americans – the primary target group for the exchanges."
That may be an embarrassment to the administration, but Obamacare faces a much more serious, and potentially fatal, flaw: Not enough people are enrolling to bankroll the system.
Obamacare needs 7 million enrollees by March 1 to be financially viable. That works out to 46,358 enrollees a day.
As National Review's Mark Steyn put it, "So, on its opening day it fell 46,352 short."
He added, "Were it to maintain that enrollment rate, Obamacare would reach its target of 7 million enrollees in the year 5209."
Humor aside, at this rate, Obamacare appears headed for financial collapse.
Few reasons to sign up
Critics say there is little reason for the administration to hope Obamacare enrollments will increase, even if the website is ever fixed.
As Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer pointed out, the bigger problem is what he called a flawed incentive structure.
Meaning, people have few reasons to sign up.
"If you are a young healthy [person], which is what the system needs, there's no logic in joining the exchange and paying what will be essentially twice of what you pay today under actuarial requirements."
According to Krauthammer, only the sick will enroll in Obamacare and they won't be enough to pay for it.
That will cause insurance companies to raise premiums, which will further discourage the healthy to enroll.
"You get a system that cannot sustain itself economically," he said. "And it collapses."
Key claims not true
The most important claims used to sell Obamacare the American public have turned out not to be true.
The claims are familiar and their failures are well documented.
'Premiums will go down'
The president promised Americans would save an average of $2,500 a year in health-care premiums under Obamacare.
On the contrary, Forbes discovered, "Obamacare’s bevy of mandates, regulations, taxes, and fees drives up the cost of the insurance plans that are offered under the law’s public exchanges."
The magazine predicts Obamacare will increase the average premiums in the individual insurance market (insurance not provided by employers) by 99 percent for men and by 62 percent for women.
It gets worse.
Forbes cited a study by the American Action Forum that found premiums for healthy 30-year-old men will increase by an average of 260 percent.
'You can keep your health plan'
Not only are millions losing their health-care plans because of Obamacare, it turns out the administration has known they would, for years.
But the president and his fellow Democrats kept making the promise, time and time again.
'You can keep your doctor'
The adminstration admitted months ago that patients may lose their doctors under Obamacare.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published the heartbreaking story of a cancer patient who wrote, "I had great cancer doctors and health insurance. My plan was canceled. Now I worry how long I'll live."
'No death panels'
Physician and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean admitted Sarah Palin was right – because health care will have to be rationed under Obamcare, "death panels" will have to decide who gets critical care and potentially life-saving treatments.
Individual market disappearing
People who purchase their coverage directly from insurance companies (as opposed to getting health-care coverage through work) are part of the individual market.
About 19 million Americans are in the individual health-insurance market.
Health-policy expert Bob Laszewski has concluded that about 16 million Americans in that market will lose their current plans because they don't meet the minimum standards of Obamacare.
The Washington Post reports, those who have lost their coverage are now angrily complaining about "sticker shock" when they see what it will cost to replace their health-insurance plans.
Employer-market problems looming
The White House has delayed the implementation of the employer mandate until 2015. That is the requirement that employers with more than 50 employees provide health insurance to their workers or pay steep fines.
But there are already signs the employer market will face the same problems that bedeviled the individual market, particularly the high costs of providing an array of benefits that Obamacare requires policies carry.
Those are the so-called "mandated benefits." And, as those in the individual market have discovered, those benefits are expensive.
And often unnecessary.
CNBC economist Larry Kudlow wonders, "Why must the government tell me and everyone else what we can and cannot buy?"
He lists mandated benefits that, "as a 60-something, relatively healthy person," he does not want, such as "lactation and maternity services, abortion services, speech therapy, mammograms, fertility treatments or Viagra."
But the stark reality that tens of millions may face is not humorous at all.
Most Americans are covered by employer-provided health insurance plans. The White House says 80-percent of Americans are covered by employer plans, Medicare or Medicaid or the Veterans Administration.
Of those people, McCatchy reports, "as many as 41 million people could lose their plans even if they wanted to keep them and would be forced into other plans ... based on an analysis of estimates offered by the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2010."
Forbes has an even gloomier estimate.
The magazine predicts a whopping 51 percent of the employer-market plans will be canceled.
Added to an estimated 54 percent of non-employer plans facing cancellation, that would make an unfathomable 93 million Americans facing the loss of their health insurance.
That is a far cry, and just the opposite, of the law's stated intent: to provide health insurance coverage for all Americans.
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth