by Jim Nintzel
The Obama administration's Heath and Human Services Department has revealed that the number of Arizonans who have signed up to purchase health insurance through the online marketplace surged last month, from 3,601 on Dec. 11 to 27,943 as of Dec. 28.
The big jump wasn't limited to Arizona. Around the country, nearly 1.8 million signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act in December, accounting for the vast majority of the 2.2 million who have now used the ACA's marketplaces to get health insurance. If you're interested in digging around the numbers, you'll find a lot of data here.
Slate's Matthew Yglesias examines the data and notes that not enough young people are signing up:
But here's the problem. The federal Health Insurance Marketplace isn't a single insurance risk pool. Because insurance is regulated at the state level, even the "federal" exchange is essentially an administrative mechanism for a couple of dozen separate risk pools. Each state needs a demographically balanced set of clients, it's not good enough to just be balanced on average. And even though the variance between the different states isn't huge, it's not nothing either. The odds that at least one or two states will fall short are much higher than the odds that the federal exchange on the whole will fall short. Now in a sense, a program that works in 48 states is doing a lot of good even if for some reason it doesn't come together right in North Dakota and Maine (or wherever). But it would be a huge embarrassment for a program that's already witnessed a lot of embarrassing failures.
The reality here is you shouldn't buy into the fevered excitement of the people who are simultaneously hoping this will fail and are certain that it will. But the people working on this in Washington and in the states are sweating the numbers a bit, and rightly so. There's a reason they wanted the marketplaces to open in the fall rather than in December and there's a reason they thought a working website would be an important element of rolling this thing out.