Obamacare Enrollment: 3 Things to Expect in December

More Americans watched the lowest-rated network television program last Sunday night, Fox's Bob's Burgers, than enrolled in Obamacare during the month of October. Nearly 32 times more.

The White House hasn't announced official enrollment numbers from November, but some figures are already being leaked by insiders. With the Healthcare.gov website working better than it has in the past, more leaks could be on the way -- especially if volume picks up significantly. While all we have are leaks right now, here are three things to expect when the enrollment numbers are announced later in December.

1. Higher overall numbers
Figures announced in December for the month of November will be higher than the October numbers. That's practically a given, considering that fewer than 27,000 individuals signed up on the Healthcare.gov website during the first month of operation. Just over 106,000 enrolled, including all of the state-run exchange totals. It can only go up from there.

Bloomberg reported that, according to an insider with knowledge about how things are going, around 100,000 Americans signed up for insurance on Healthcare.gov in November. CNBC also stated that a source provided a similar figure. If this number is close, it reflects improvement -- but not nearly enough. For Obamacare to be successful, federal officials estimate that around 7 million must enroll by the end of March.

A key thing to keep in mind, however, is that the official numbers released in December won't count enrollment completed after the Nov. 30 deadline for many of the website fixes. The November enrollment figures announced in December won't mean nearly as much as the December numbers that will be announced in January.

2. Slowing Medicaid trend
During the first month of open enrollment, over 3.7 times more Americans were identified as eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) than signed up for private health insurance. Expect the numbers announced in December to show even higher Medicaid and CHIP numbers, though those figures will probably reflect less of the overall total than earlier.

There's one big reason why this should be the case. Because Medicaid and CHIP are free, visitors on the federally operated website and the state-run sites would be less likely to give up in frustration compared to people having to endure the headaches to fork out money from their pocketbooks for health insurance. With incremental improvements made during November, it stands to reason that the percentage of Medicaid and CHIP enrollees announced in December could decline from October.

3. More problems
Even with higher overall enrollment numbers, expect more enrollment problems to crop up. Aetna (NYSE: AET  ) CEO Mark Bertolini was probably right when he stated in mid-October that "there's so much wrong, you just don't know what's broken until you get a lot more of it fixed." The reality with software development is that correcting the first wave of bugs often leads to the discovery of more glitches.

This already appears to have been the case. In early November, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the Healthcare.gov website needed "a couple of hundred" fixes when it was first launched. Yet in a report released on Dec. 1, HHS stated that more than 400 bugs were corrected. Don't be surprised if plenty of additional issues are found during the next few weeks that impact Obamacare enrollment.

Winning the expectations game
Who wins if these expectations prove to be on target? We at The Motley Fool focus on investing, so let's look at potential winning stocks.

Which company gains the most from higher enrollment numbers depends largely on how much higher those numbers are -- and, more importantly, how much stronger enrollment grows during December. If the figures are disappointing, Aetna and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) could be looking pretty smart for taking cautious approaches towards participation in the Obamacare exchanges. If the reports exceed expectations, WellPoint (NYSE: ANTM  ) stands in a good position to be a beneficiary. The nation's second-largest health insurer is participating in the exchanges in every state where it operates.

If the Medicaid enrollment trend slows only slightly -- or actually grows -- WellPoint could also emerge as a big winner. The company boasts the highest Medicaid membership of all of the large health insurers. Aetna and UnitedHealth should also benefit from continued strength in the Medicaid enrollment.

And what if more technical problems are found? Despite getting bad press from earlier issues, CGI Group (NYSE: GIB  ) could still conceivably win -- particularly if the problems are found in areas where the company's employees have the most expertise.

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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 December 03, 2013, at 8:33 PM, Dayo2 wrote:

    The 11 million illegal’s that are going to be new citizens on top of the last 11 million illegal’s that became citizens under Obama and those 535 persons working for the one percent for profit. They are getting almost free medical and the one percent pays little medical insurance for them for more profit. The middle class Americans medical insurance is rising to pay for the illegal’s medical bills, plus Americans are losing their jobs to them, and cannot find jobs that would keep them in the middle class.

  • Report this Comment On December 03, 2013, at 10:35 PM, chris293 wrote:

    Socialist medical treatment takes the profit out of the medical expanded care thereby reducing the tax pool use to pay for said medical treatments of the increased number of people getting care. But, to many this a simple pyramid scheme that the new enrolled people expect their children will pay for in the future and this simplistic reasoning is why that political party keep spending monies they do not have. Are there political payoffs? or some thing else? This government needs to open its' accounting books in a clear and understandable manner and hopefully pay down the national debt.

  • Report this Comment On December 04, 2013, at 6:35 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    One thing to expect in December is more left-wing spin about how great it is for the government to continue to take control of 16% of the economy.

    The ultimate losers will be the hard working people of the middle-class that will continue to subsidize the rest.

  • Report this Comment On December 04, 2013, at 3:40 PM, 2smartforlibs wrote:

    Is December when they finally admit rationed healthcare is right around the corner? Other than that is just more lies from the regime

  • Report this Comment On December 04, 2013, at 8:37 PM, Incumbent wrote:

    Please note: After a recent wave of identify thefts, the FBI estimates there are over 500 fake Obamacare websites set up for the sole purpose of stealing your personal information.

    So protect yourself and remember:

    The real one is the one that doesn't work!

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