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My view: How many are really signing up with the ACA?

By David Jensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, April 8 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

As President Obama was mocking his critics and waxing giddy over his apparent success of enrolling 7.1 million people, I couldn't help wonder if there was truth to his claim.

Jim Mone, File, Associated Press

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As President Obama was mocking his critics and waxing giddy over his apparent success of enrolling 7.1 million people, I couldn't help wonder if there was truth to his claim.

And why shouldn't one question his veracity after reflecting upon the dishonest statements proclaimed dozens of times before the passing of the law such as: "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."

It turns out there is a big discrepancy between what the Associated Press reported and what the White House reported regarding enrollments. The White House reported that 7.1 million people signed up for a health care plan. The AP said that 7.1 million people created an application. Here's the difference: If 7.1 million people enrolled or signed up for a plan, that means they completed the entire application, selected a plan and paid for the plan. If you just created an account, you simply started the enrollment process by selecting a user name and password. You may not have gotten any further than just that. Many of the created accounts are dormant or dead files that will never materialize into an enrollment.

As a licensed health insurance agent, I completed over 200 enrollments in the past six months at healthcare.gov. However, I probably created over 300 accounts. Here's why. Many enrollees started the process and created an account multiple times, sometimes as many as three or four times due to computer glitches. Oftentimes an account was created but we were unable to log in, so those accounts were abandoned. Sometimes we had to start over because the applications became corrupted and were unviable.

Sometimes we actually completed an application but a client decided not to buy and other times clients selected a plan but did not pay. And then of course there were times when a client started an application but forgot the user name or password and so it was easier to start all over again than wait for the Marketplace to email us back to reset an account. The bottom line is that 7.1 million accounts created may just be 5 million enrollments.

Wouldn't we all agree that success under the ACA would be how many uninsured people obtained insurance? A big question would then be, how many of these enrollees had an insurance plan prior to signing up at the Marketplace. Before the end of last year, was it not reported that roughly 5 million people lost their plans due to the new law? It's not known how many of these same people signed up for an ACA plan through the Marketplace. Some may have obtained coverage off exchange, some may have picked up other group insurance with a spouse and others may still be uninsured.

My experience with sign-ups is that well over 50 percent of the enrollees had health insurance before enrolling in the ACA. They signed up for an ACA plan simply to take advantage of the premium tax credits.

If total enrollments are in fact closer to 5 million and if over 50 percent of them are simply replacing an existing plan, then only about 2 million to 2.5 million people previously uninsured obtained insurance.

It's estimated that the ACA has spent several billion dollars over the past four years implementing this law. According to the New York Times, over $50 million was spent just in advertising over the past 90 days alone. Considering the overall cost of the ACA, the harm it will do to the middle class due to price increases, the harm it will due to physicians and the medical practice, not to mention the harm the ACA will have on the health of the economy, wouldn't it have just been more efficient and less costly to simply pay the health insurance premiums for the 2 million to 2.5 million people?

David Allen Jensen is a licensed heath insurance agent and a current Utah state delegate.

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