No Obamacare Numbers 'Til Mid-November, CMS Chief Tells Congress--Again and Again

October 29, 2013 - 11:38 AM

Tavenner

Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. (C-SPAN Image)

(CNSNews.com) - "We will not have those numbers available until mid-November."

"We will not have those numbers available until mid-November, - See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/no-obamacare-numbers-til-mid...
"We will not have those numbers available until mid-November, - See more at: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/no-obamacare-numbers-til-mid...

Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, repeatedly told a House committee on Tuesday that the first report on how many people have enrolled in Obamacare will be ready in mid-November.

She used the phrase, or a variation of it -- "We will not have those numbers available until mid-November" -- multiple times, refusing to say if she knows the number of enrollees, or whether anyone involved in the process is forwarding numbers to her before the mid-November reporting date.

"People are still in the process of enrolling," Tavenner said several times. She did say that around 700,000 people have completed the application process on the exchanges so far, but that does not mean they have actually enrolled.

Tavenner confirmed that the Obama administration expects 7 million people to sign up for insurance on the exchanges by the end of March. "That's correct," she said. But she could not confirm that 2.3 million of those enrollees need to be young and healthy to make the program viable.

"I don't have that metric with me, but I'll check on it," she told House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.).

Asked if she personally will enroll in Obamacare, Tavenner replied, "I have employer-sponsored insurance. I would not be eligible for the plan."

Asked if she's even tried to enroll, Tavener said she hasn't gone online to "shop" for a plan, but she did create an online account to see how the process worked.

Mid-November, Mid-November...’

"Do you have any idea how many are just looking and how many are trying to enroll" in the health care exchanges? Camp asked Tavenner several times. He said the enrollee number is "the number that matters."

"We will not have that 'til mid-November," Tavenner said. "We have people who are shopping now. We expect the initial number to be small, and I think you've seen that in our projections, and that was the Massachusetts experience as well."

Camp said the enrollee numbers he's hearing from Michigan insurers "are not good."

He then asked Tavenner if 494,620 people will have signed up for health insurance on the exchanges by October 31 -- as CMS has estimated. "Have you met that estimate?" Camp asked Tavenner.

"We will not have those numbers available until mid-November," Tavenner said.

"So do you not know -- do you not have any idea of how many people have enrolled, or--?"

"Folks are still in the process of enrolling both at the -- in the state-based exchanges and in the federal exchange, and we will have those number available in mid-November," Tavenner said.

Asked again is she is knows the actual enrollment numbers, Tavenner said, "Am I getting those numbers? Not yet."

"You have no numbers on who's enrolled -- so you have no idea?" Camp asked.

"We will have those numbers available in Mid-November," Tavenner said again.

So no one is forwarding even weekly updates on--?" Camp asked.

"I think you've seen some in the press, and I think that was on the graph earlier, about what states have listed. We will get those numbers in mid-November," Tavenner said.

“But -- I understand you're not publicly releasing those numbers, but I'm asking do you have any idea of, on a weekly basis, how many people are enrolling, I mean, how do you not know how many people have enrolled?”

“Chairman Camp, we will have those numbers available in mid-November."

“But is your staff updating you on those, are you getting those on a periodic basis? I realize you're not prepared to give this to the committee, even though this is a government program and we're trying to do oversight here and we're trying to understand what the problems are -- but do you have some idea what some of those problems might be -- in terms of the numbers.

"I'm not quite sure what you're asking," Tavenner replied.

“Well you said 700,000 people have completed the application process, so clearly you're getting some information. Do you have any idea of how many of those can move to the next step of enrolling, looking at plans, how many are eligible, how many have decided to enroll?" Camp asked.

"Once individuals complete the applications, then they go into the shopping experience where they can look at plans. We do get numbers on the number of applications, and then we need to break those out, and that's what I said, this is part of the rollout that we will give in mid-November for the October data,” Tavenner said.

"Okay, so you do have the applications, which is the 700,000 number, but you don't have how many people successfully enrolled," Camp said.

"I'm saying people are still in the process of enrolling," Tavenner said.

Camp asked Tavenner if she knows how many of the 700,000 applicants so far are eligible for Medicaid.

"We have some information on who is eligible for Medicaid, and obviously states have their own information about that, and it depends on whether a state has expanded or not, and what's going on inside -- it's very state-specific.”

"Can you share with the committee the information you have about those that have enrolled and are eligible for Medicaid?" Camp asked.

"We will also have that information available in mid-November as well," Tavenner said

"'Cause that would mean of those 700,000, a significant portion could not be enrolling in the exchange -- would not be in the exchange -- if they're qualifying for Medicaid, is that correct?

"We will have that information available to you in mid-November."

"Yeah, but the law is, that if they're eligible for Medicaid, they're not enrolling in the exchange, that's my question."

“Correct," said Tavenner.

"So there could be a significant portion of that 700,000 that would not be enrolling in an exchange. Is that correct?" Camp asked.

"There could be numbers in there that will be eligible for Medicaid, that's correct."

Asked how many of the 700,000 are just looking and how many are trying to enroll, Tavenner said, "We actually look at the people who are shopping, and obviously the majority of the people who are completing applications are there to actually purchase the insurance. And so they continue to go through the shopping experience.”