The White House said the Obamacare enrollment numbers would be low. And they were right.
Overall, just 106,185 Americans selected a health plan through the Obamacare "Marketplaces" from Oct. 1 through Nov. 2. Federal officials had projected -- and hoped for -- closer to 500,000. At the current rate, it will take five and a half years to sign up the 7 million individuals needed for Obamacare to be considered a reasonable success.
It could be worse. Actually, it is worse -- depending on where you live. Enrollment numbers reported for some states were downright ugly. Statistics for some states (the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Oregon) weren't reported at all. Here are the five states at the bottom of the ranking based on number of individuals selecting health plans as a percentage of potential market size.
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the potential market size for individual health insurance in Alaska is around 78,000. During the first month of operation, a grand total of 53 Alaskans selected a health plan through the HealthCare.gov website. That's just 0.068% of the potential market.
4. North Dakota
North Dakota had only 42 intrepid individuals sign up on the Obamacare website . The potential market size for the state is 77,000. Those smaller numbers resulted in North Dakota's having only 0.055% of residents who could sign up for insurance actually doing so.
The Hawkeye State's potential market size is considerably larger. Kaiser estimated that 262,000 residents would be in need of individual insurance. However, only 136 Iowa residents -- just 0.052% of the market -- actually enrolled in an Obamacare plan.
Mississippi's market size, according to Kaiser, is around 298,000. Only 148 residents in the state signed up on the federal Obamacare website. This reflects a paltry 0.050% of the potential market.
1. South Dakota
The worst state of all in terms of Obamacare enrollment, though, was South Dakota. Just 58 people in the state selected a health plan on HealthCare.gov. That's a minuscule 0.049% of the state's estimated market size of 118,000. There's no word on whether four of those 58 enrollees carried the last names of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.
Hit with an ugly stick?
Insurers that counted on gaining significant new business through the Obamacare exchanges can't be happy with the underwhelming national numbers. But what was the exposure of the major insurance companies in these five worst states? It's not too bad.
WellPoint (NYSE:ANTM) is the one big national insurer that enrolled in every state where it operates. However, of those 14 states, none ranked among the bottom five in enrollment as a percentage of potential market size.
Aetna (NYSE:AET), the third-largest U.S. health insurer, is participating in a handful of state exchanges. Only one of those states -- Iowa -- made our list.Humana (NYSE:HUM), likewise, only counts one state in which it is participating among the bottom five -- Mississippi.
The biggest health insurer in the nation, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH), took a cautious approach to the Obamacare exchanges. Of the states in which the company participated, none ranked on our list of the worst.
While this is at least a sliver of good news for the insurers, there's more bad news about the Obamacare enrollment numbers for the White House. The figures released by Health and Human Services included anyone who selected a plan, regardless of whether they paid the first month's premium. That's like having a website count as a sale any item included in a customer's online shopping cart before the customer actually pay for the item.
So, basically, we really haven't seen the real Obamacare enrollment numbers yet. The number of Americans truly buying health insurance is probably far uglier than what was announced.
Fool contributor Keith Speights has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint and owns shares of WellPoint. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.