Obama Gets a Vote of Confidence on Obamacare Enrollment — Sort Of

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Good news for President Obama: health experts agree that six or seven million is an arbitrary number, and the exchanges have enough people. The bad news is that the numbers matter on a state-level — and some states aren't doing too well, writes Bruce Japsen at Forbes.

Last week the president told WebMD that he was confident enough people have enrolled in Obamacare to make the system economically sound, though he didn't mention reports that approximately 20 percent of enrollees haven't paid their premiums. (Conservative outlets thought this was a little bold, and Twitchy summed up the backlash with this gem: "If you like your bogus definition of success, you can keep your bogus definition of success.") 

Still, health experts agree that the important number isn't how many have enrolled nationally, but in each state. “We would agree with the president, but it’s really on a state-by-state basis,” said benefits consultant Bryce Williams of Towers Watson. “We don’t even look at the national enrollments. You don’t need to get to 6 to 7 million nationally.”

Some states are in much better shape than others. Connecticut and Rhode Island were at 218 and 197 percent, respectively, of their enrollment goals for March 1, according to this New York Times interactive. And while D.C. only reached 18 percent of its goal, 45 percent of its enrollees are 18- to 34-years-old. Still, 26 states were enrolling less than the national average. 

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Percent of enrollment target met, by state

Data from the Times.

Earlier this month the Government Accountability Office announced it would investigate several of the country's worst performing state-run exchanges in Oregon, Maryland, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Benefits experts told Forbes that, in addition to low enrollment among young invincibles, there's a worry that low enrollment in states with busted exchanges may lead to greater losses among insurers, who would then consider leaving those states. But so far, nothing major has prompted insurers to pack their bags, and enrollments are starting to trend younger. Whether or not that's enough remains to be seen.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.