A reported 2.1 million people have successfully signed up for health benefits through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace system since the health care exchange system launched in October.
This national number represents both individual state systems and the federal exchange.
On the one hand, this is an impressive number given there was a question as to whether even a few hundred thousand would be able to sign up. But digging deeper into the facts reveals a more complex picture, where it is clear that the goals of the Affordable Care Act have a long way to go before they are met.
To say that 2.1 million people are insured through the Marketplace is to miss the point that there are nearly 5 million people without coverage — 7 million people actually have had their insurance plans canceled.
However, one of the primary motivations for a nationally-regulated health care system is to make sure we capture the 40 million citizens who are currently uninsured.
The number “2.1 million” that has been issued to the media actually represents the many people who were already insured and were going to lose their insurance. How many of those original 40 million have a plan now?
And what happened to the other approximately 5 million people who lost their insurance and did not receive coverage through the Marketplace?
From what we witnessed at Hafetz and Associates, getting through the Web portal was akin to buying tickets to a Rolling Stones concert. If you strategically tried to go online at a certain time of day you may have gotten in, or you may have needed to sit there and try and try again — even with these tricks, you may have been shut out.
So where do we go from here?
The Marketplace is open through March 31, 2014, so there is still time to get covered. But if you have not done so by Jan. 15, 2014, then the earliest you will get coverage is March 1. If you wait until the last two weeks of March, the active date will be May 1. In order to make sure you are protected with health insurance, you need to sign up as quickly as possible.
Consumers should know what their options are and what they need to plan for.
When agents and brokers talk to consumers about the Marketplace options, they should make sure to compare how group coverage works vs. how individual coverage works, and they should make sure consumers are thinking about how to budget for premium bills each month.
Most people are used to their employers deducting payments automatically, pre-tax every pay period.
If consumers are not in a corporate group plan, their benefits are no longer being paid for using pre-tax dollars.
Consumers should know how the lack of the tax break will affect their disposable income.
Where will everyone be at the end of March? It’s hard to tell right now, but agents and brokers should be watching the reports and passing on as much information as they can in the coming weeks so their customers can plan accordingly.