Lingering questions about unpaid ObamaCare premiums

It remains a national embarrassment that the Administration refuses to release the actual number of paid and valid ObamaCare insurance policies.  Policies are not valid if the initial premium is not paid.  The Obama Administration deals only in the vague abstract of “enrollments,” a measure that has included everything from incomplete online shopping-cart data to unpaid policies that shouldn’t count at all.

We’re left to guess at what the actual number of valid ObamaCare policies might be.  Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came close to giving the game away on April Fool’s Day when she conceded the overall rate of payment on those first premiums was somewhere between 80 and 90 percent.  (It seems safe to assume that if the number was closer to 90, she wouldn’t be so evasive about revealing it.)  Another clue that the payment rate isn’t so great was a remarkable Twitter message from the official HealthCareDotGov Twitter account, reminding their customers: “If you have a premium, make sure you pay it to stay covered.”

There’s also the uncomfortable data point that previously uninsured people – i.e. the people ObamaCare was supposed to benefit – have considerably lower rates of premium payment than people who were already insured.  One study found that rate of follow-through payment was 86 percent for the previously insured, but only 53 percent for the uninsured.  That means when the dust settles, the proportion of valid ObamaCare enrollments purchased by the previously uninsured is likely to be even smaller than the current dismal 2o percent or so.

And, like every other aspect of ObamaCare, this is a question that must be answered state-by-state.  The national average might work out to 80 – 90 percent valid, but an individual state with an exceptionally low percentage of paid and valid policies is going to find itself in deep trouble.

Which brings us to Georgia, where insurers report that only about half of the ObamaCare applicants have paid up.  As Georgia Health News observes, the last-minute surge of applicants and shifting ObamaCare deadlines should make the final numbers look a bit better in future reports, but as of today, the statistics are grim:

Georgia insurers received more than 220,000 applications for health coverage in the Affordable Care Act???s exchange as of the official federal deadline of March 31, state officials said Wednesday.

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, though, said premiums have been received for only 107,581 of those policies, which cover 149,465 people.

???Many Georgians completed the application process by the deadline, but have yet to pay for the coverage,??? Hudgens said in a statement Wednesday.

One suspects a bit of the old central-planning razzle-dazzle will be employed to stretch the deadlines to the breaking point, before any of these policies are declared null and void, and removed from the official tally.  Taxpayers will be delighted to know that almost all of these ObamaCare enrollments are subsidized:

The number of Georgia applications ??? 221,604 ??? was a big jump in two weeks from the 177,668 that completed applications by March 15.

Almost all of those policies??? purchasers will receive a federal subsidy to afford the coverage, Hudgens??? office said.

The number of Georgians who have applied is still far short of the estimated 650,000 who are eligible for subsidies in the health insurance exchange.

Graham Thompson of the Georgia Association of Health Plans said that the insurance industry recognized that subsidies ???would be a tremendous driver of behavior. That has borne true.???

???We???re happy that these folks have signed up for our plans,?????? Thompson said.

He noted that the health plans must analyze the information about enrollees and ???turn on a dime?????? to set premiums for the 2015 plan year.

Hudgens has long been a staunch opponent of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. And in the press release, his office noted that the insurance department estimated that about 400,000 Georgians could lose their current health insurance coverage because their policies failed to meet new mandates required by the ACA.

Hudgens encouraged insurers to extend those policies until 2016, but his office noted in the press release that it???s unknown how many of the enrollees were forced into the exchange because of policy cancellations.

650,000 people were eligible for subsidies, and 400,000 people are losing their coverage because of Obama’s Big Lie, but only 220,000 people signed up, and at the moment it looks like only half of them have paid?  What a “triumph.”

High rates of non-payment are more than just a political embarrassment.  They will play a big role in the calculations insurance companies perform to set next year’s rates, at which point a good deal of spin-machine smoke-and-mirrors will evaporate, particularly in states with relatively unhealthy insurance markets.  The overall national rate is surely going to be higher than what Georgia is reporting, but every such anecdote provides a new reason to wonder if the 80-90 percent follow-through rate claimed by Secretary Sebelius was overly optimistic… and makes it more clear why the government doesn’t want to disclose these figures, at least not until it gets a few more news cycles beyond that April 1 deadline.