The 5 States With the Highest Obamacare Enrollment Figures

The rollout of Obamacare's state and federally run health exchanges has been like a freeway construction project in Southern California so far -- you know it's going to make things better, but it always seems to go over budget and the completion time is nowhere near the original projection. Can you guess where I grew up?

The flash-bang start has certainly been an adventure -- but a relatively bifurcated one. For those who live in one of the 36 states operating under the federally run Healthcare.gov, attempting to access the insurance marketplace has been a glitch-filled nightmare. Overloaded servers have slowed response times to a crawl while the information technology architecture behind the system is having difficulty determining subsidies and completing the identification process to allow consumers to create an account and shop for health insurance. Not surprisingly, the Department of Health and Human Services has been unwilling and/or unable to give enrollment figures for any of those 36 states.

On the other hand, state-run exchanges have seen some remarkable success. We're not talking about a flawless execution here -- Oregon's live marketplace isn't up and running yet, Hawaii has been dealing with software glitches that haven't allowed it to sell a single policy to date, and Vermont was forced to turn to slower paper applications as it sorts out its technical issues. However, more state-run exchanges than not are functioning well.

These five states have seen the best results
Of the 14 state-run exchange states -- and with the exception of Minnesota, which had a technical glitch with its reporting -- 10 have reported enrollment figures through the first two weeks. Here are the five states that have signed up the greatest number of enrollees so far, according to The Atlantic

State

Total Enrollment

New York

40,000

Washington

24,949

Maryland

16,712

California

16,300

Kentucky

10,990

Source: The Atlantic.

New York and my home state of Washington certainly shouldn't be surprises at the top. Not to give too much credit early on to politics, but citizens in both states overwhelmingly supported passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and should expect a strong turnout from currently uninsured persons.

Perhaps the biggest shock here would be the incredibly weak turnout through two weeks in California. Enrolling 16,300 people is solid, but relative to the congressional estimates released prior to the opening of the health exchanges on Oct. 1, California may be one of the biggest disappoints of them all. According to those estimates, New York and Washington were expected to bring in 218,000 and 340,000 new members, respectively, and look to be well on their way to hitting those goals. By contrast, California was expected to bring in 1.3 million by itself -- practically 20% of the 7 million members Obamacare had hoped to enroll -- yet only managed to bring in 1.25% of that total through two weeks.

Are these results good or bad for insurers?
The big question probably reverberating through your mind now, especially if you own health insurance stock, is whether these enrollment figures are good or bad for the industry. The truth is that it really depends on the state in which the insurance company operates.

Insurers in Washington, for example, have to be enjoying the early success with close to 25,000 enrollees. However, there are few ways investors have been able to take advantage of this success since major insurers Premera Blue Cross and Group Health are both nonprofit health organizations. If there's one winner, here it could be Centene (NYSE: CNC  ) with its Ambetter Bronze plan, which clocked in as the lowest in the state for my age group and was successful in luring me in! Centene typically targets lower-income consumers and aims for lower-tier pricing, so it could have early success in garnering bronze-level consumers.

Californian insurers, though, should be a bit concerned by these early figures. I'm specifically thinking of WellPoint (NYSE: WLP  ) and Health Net (NYSE: HNT  ) , which are among the four largest insurers in California that control about 75% of the state health insurance market. WellPoint has made a sizable $4.5 billion bet on Amerigroup that it'll see strong sign-ups in California, among other states, but that bet is clearly not paying off through the first two weeks.

Overall, though, we seem to be tracking below expectations when it comes to enrolling 7 million people before the March 31, 2014, coverage cutoff date. Extrapolating the some 115,000 members who have signed up cumulatively on the state exchanges through the first two weeks brings us close to 2.8 million members by that deadline. That would mean we would need to see more than 4 million members sign up through Healthcare.gov to hit 7 million, and no one is really certain when it'll be functional enough to handle the weight of traffic and complex data from 36 states.

Where does this leave us?
As I've said before, new technology often takes time to sort out, and when you add in the complexity of this health reform it's definitely not an overnight fix. Preceding health reform overhauls in many cases took up to a year to become practically glitch-free, so we're probably going to be talking about enrollment snafus for months to come.

Although these enrollment issues are creating near-term disappointments for insurers and could give investors in these companies some short-term indigestion, the extended outlook for the sector still looks bright once Healthcare.gov's problems are resolved. It may not happen this year, or the federal government may need to extend the coverage block further than March 31, 2014, but insurers still appear set up to thrive over the long run under Obamacare.

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Read/Post Comments (15) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 16, 2013, at 4:46 PM, PaulPhoenix wrote:

    40,000? More like 40.

    Even if you can enroll, why would you want to?

    Higher monthly figures, higher deductible which some doctors are now requiring being paid before they will look at you. The site has hidden code saying you have no expectation of privacy on the site. Once you give them your info and if you don't sign up, prepare for an audit and or fraud.

  • Report this Comment On October 16, 2013, at 7:25 PM, NoMoeMoney wrote:

    I would venture to bet that of all thoses numbers listed 90% are pre-existing. People are going to fear the exchanges more than the fines.

  • Report this Comment On October 16, 2013, at 7:45 PM, rdmcdonald48 wrote:

    There's an expression; "figures will lie, and liars will figure".

    The question will be, going forward - whose numbers are going to be the "real" numbers, and whose numbers will we believe? I heard today that a state just enrolled its first person on their exchange. IF that is true, and they need 7,000,000 people to support it - the next year will he interesting, to say the least.

    The Democrats crucified the Republicans in their verbiage; their contempt; their rage over the "shut down" and an attempt to defund Obamacare. The net result, once people revolt, may very well be their own demise.

  • Report this Comment On October 16, 2013, at 8:36 PM, flakyme wrote:

    As long as only the pre-existing people or those who qualify for subsidies are the only ones to sign up then the whole thing will collapse as it should. Anyone crazy enough to go on those sites deserve what they get which is government in their business.

  • Report this Comment On October 16, 2013, at 9:04 PM, philhiscock wrote:

    I thought the president said that there were 30 million uninsured Americans? Was not the ACA act supposed to get those people insurance? Fact is even if the numbers are correct and I highly doubt it they need millions of more insured people on the program to cover the 30 million who do not have insurance. Horrible numbers for sure.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2013, at 1:07 AM, DevonShire123 wrote:

    So if I've done the math right, that's around 3% of the population. What happened to affordable healthcare for EVERYONE???

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2013, at 2:20 AM, northland1 wrote:

    So, I don't know, maybe they were waiting to make sure Obamacare wasn't defunded in the shutdown drama before committing to enrollment. And maybe the technical problems accessing the system made people wait until those were worked out. So many waiting to pounce on this as failure. Then we have 25 states who didn't bother taking fed money to set up their own exchanges, as political statement against ACA in order to get better competitive rates. Some people will resist any change even if Jesus Christ Himself were sponsoring this act.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2013, at 2:44 AM, eatshtgoverment wrote:

    they wish that many people enrolled , so in order to get people to enroll in the sorriest and criminal healthcare plan ever made. This health plan is nothing more but a ploy to force people to sign , fulltime jobs are no more since Osama Obama care so now our middle class is poor , and the fact that companies that had family plan insurance the wife or husband are being dropped from the company's family plan , and if you get caught you have to pay a fine, so not only you have to pay deductible on your plan now you have the wife's , so the Osama Obama care did not change a thing and all these glitch's could be Osama Obama and his bunch of goons are probably trading secrets to our most good friends that love us so much in desert land. Thanks for letting me share.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2013, at 2:48 AM, eatshtgoverment wrote:

    Lady's and Gent's our own government is trying to rob us where is Mr. Moore when you really need him

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2013, at 11:13 AM, sofajima wrote:

    Mr. Williams, you really are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You've latched on to the 7 million number, which was a theoretical "breakeven" point, as the measure of success. That's really pathetic. As one of the above commenters pointed out, what about the 30 million others?

    Next, you take two weeks of data, out of approximately 25 weeks of open enrollment time, and presumably multiply it by 12.5 to extrapolate total enrollment. Also pathetic. Measure your pulse for 5 seconds and then multiply by 12. What's the margin of error if you're off by one beat?

    I wish you had had more training in critical thinking on your way to your journalism career because journalism this isn't. It makes Pravda look fair and balanced.

    Also, if you want to get a better insight in to complex systems, I suggest you read Dr. Taleb's book, The Black Swan. Pay close attention to the efficacy of government projections. Can you believe there is someone actually paid to predict the price of oil 20 years from now?

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2013, at 11:02 PM, MiscRamblings wrote:

    Ah, a subject I love to hate.

    I am a Medicaid enrolled adult who has been forcefully switched to the Obamacare version of Medicaid. We had the option of two companies in the county in which I live; Fidelus Care and Excellus BC/BS.

    Fidelus is, in-and-of-itself, a joke. I chose this option because I had no information on either plan. Just that this one accepted the doctor that had made the biggest difference in my health. It is true that hindsight is 20/20.

    Within the first 2 weeks I was taken off 6 of my medications at one time, and cold turkey. I went through weeks of withdrawal symptoms, falls down staircases, horrible pain, etc. All because they say that I have to try six other medications before I can use the medication that I have been on for nearly 5 years.

    I contacted Excellus and I start the new insurance on 11/1/13. I had high hopes in becoming the person I was before Fidelis began to CARE for me. Now I am inundated with the news that they too are going to take my life and SNAFU it. As of 1/1/14 they are going to drop all Medicaid clients. So that leaves me back with the problem I had before.

    I voted for President Obama, I was for the Affordable Care Act, I am utterly disappointed in both right now. As of now, I hold my breath waiting for the next anvil to fall.

  • Report this Comment On October 18, 2013, at 7:53 AM, JackTroy wrote:

    I keep hearing the word "glitsch" as if you untick something in advanced settings on your PC.

    IT people were going off the record early this year predicting that the integration of the databases necessary to make Obamacare function were simply NOT GOING TO BE IN PLACE on Oct 1 or anytime soon thereafter.

    Obama should kiss the Republicans for stupidly shutting down the govt on Oct 1 stepping on their own punchline which was "this really is a trainwreck like we said."

    But now the govt is open freeing up the press to do the stories they should have been doing 2 weeks ago and it isn't pretty for Barry.

  • Report this Comment On October 18, 2013, at 8:02 AM, broknrekord3 wrote:

    It's like everyone forgot that people don't need to have insurance until Jan 1st. This is AMERICA, the land of procrastination. If it weren't for the last minute, we'd never get anything done.

    A chat regarding the success of enrollment is only valid after that date.

  • Report this Comment On October 18, 2013, at 3:29 PM, wspatton wrote:

    "New technology often takes time to sort out." The problem is that technology the HHS is using is ten years old. It's insane that the most tech savvy president EVER (and that's not an exaggeration) is using systems that have been irrelevant since before he was elected to the senate to power his greatest political achievement. Even if, by some miracle, they do get the site up and running, it won't be long before they have to overhaul the whole thing anyway.

  • Report this Comment On October 19, 2013, at 3:27 PM, TruthOut4All wrote:

    It's going like gangbusters in the home state of Walmart.

    http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2013/10/15/mor...

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