My last column referred in passing to a surprising fact that came out of last weekend’s Wall Street Journal: Somewhere between 65 percent to 90 percent of the 2.2 million folks who bought insurance on the exchanges through late December seem to be people who already had insurance. Some came to the exchanges when their policies got canceled; others came, voluntarily or not, from the employer market. But various sources suggest that the number of previously uninsured people who have so far bought policies on the exchanges is somewhere south of 750,000.
To put that number in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the exchanges would sign up 7 million people in the first year, roughly 2 million of them transitioning from other insurance plans and 5 million of them previously uninsured. If the Journal’s numbers are right, then by the end of December, the exchanges had signed up at least 1.45 million previously insured folks out of the 2 million who were projected to enroll by the end of May — roughly 75 percent of the projected total. But at most, they’ve signed up 15 percent of the uninsured that they were expecting to enroll. You’d expect the early numbers to be somewhat weighted toward the previously insured, who probably want to maintain continuous coverage. Still, this is a fairly wild skew, and it leaves us with a burning question: Where are the uninsured? Did hardly any of them want coverage beginning Jan. 1?