The Huffington Post reported late Friday that, effective today, the Administration is ending a program giving $100 fees to insurance agents and brokers that refer customers to Obamacare’s new high-risk pool for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Last May, the Administration instituted a $100 broker referral fee in an attempt to increase otherwise underwhelming enrollment in the high-risk pool program. One individual active among insurance brokers provided an interesting explanation as to why the Administration discontinued the referral fee program: “They [i.e., the Administration] said enrollment’s up to where we want it to be, basically, and we don’t need your [i.e., brokers’] services anymore.”
According to the most recent data released by the Administration, 56,257 individuals with pre-existing conditions are enrolled in the federal high-risk pool program established under Obamacare. Six states have enrollment of fewer than 100 individuals — the District of Columbia’s pool, for instance, has but 44 enrollees. The current enrollment data do not come anywhere close to earlier projections — the Medicare actuary originally projected enrollment at 375,000 individuals in 2010, and Congressional Budget Office estimated up to 700,000 individuals would attempt to enroll in the program by next year.
Two key points follow from the underwhelming enrollment in the pre-existing condition coverage, and the Administration’s claims enrollment is satisfactory:
1. It’s difficult for the Administration to argue that 129 million individuals have pre-existing conditions and “could be denied affordable coverage.” The 56,257 individuals enrolled in the new federal high-risk pool as of February 29 represent only .04% of the total number of Americans the Administration claimed suffer from pre-existing conditions.
2. Obamacare spends $2.6 trillion in its first decade of full implementation, largely to ensure that those with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage. At this rate and based on these metrics — $2.6 trillion in spending, and 56,257 participants – the federal government will spend $4,621,647.08 per year for every person with pre-existing conditions newly enrolled in coverage. That’s not just enough money to buy each person with pre-existing conditions a platinum-plated insurance policy — that’s enough to buy each one a small hospital.
That the Administration is content with high-risk pool enrollment of just over 50,000 persons with pre-existing conditions shows that the problem of individuals with pre-existing conditions is real, but not insurmountable. More to the point, it doesn’t take a 2700-page, $2.6 trillion law the American people didn’t need or want – taking away the health coverage of millions in the process – to provide access to about 56,000 individuals with chronic or pre-existing conditions.