Obamacare enrollment target wavers in Delaware

 (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

(AP Photo/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Delaware’s goal for sign-ups through the new health care marketplace was 35,000 by March 31, the end of open enrollment for health insurance coverage in 2014. 

However, back in September 2013 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put Delaware’s enrollment goal at just 8,000.

“Two different entities set the benchmark,” Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said. “In Delaware in 2010, we looked at our uninsured population and at that time it was 90,000. And then we said out of those 90,000, how many do we think that we can outreach to… that’s how we came up with 35,000.”

Landgraf says she is not sure what formula CMS used, or what factors were taken into consideration, to reach that figure, but believes the computer glitches that plagued the health care exchange website when it was first rolled out will affect overall enrollment numbers in the state.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“I do believe because we lost two months relative to enrollment, and what we did do was we ramped down the marketing because we did not want to drive Delawareans to a system that we knew was not operating,” she said.

As of Jan. 31, Landgraf says 6,458 Delawareans have enrolled in what’s commonly referred to as Obamacare since Oct. 1, 2013; 5,062 enrolled through the marketplace, 1,396 through Medicaid. Those numbers signify a 59 percent and 32 percent increase, respectively, from the previous month.

“I believe that we shouldn’t be satisfied that we’re getting close to 8,000… but that’s why I get nervous sometimes about setting these benchmarks because that’s what people go for,” said Landgraf. “What’s really important for me is that we’re outreaching to all Delawareans… informing them about the mandate under federal law as well as how they can gain access.”

Of the 5,062 people who signed up through the marketplace, the age 18-34 demographic, known as the ‘young invincibles,’ represent 20 percent of enrollment.

“Delaware still has north of 90,000 Delawareans without health insurance, so we know we have a target audience that hasn’t been in the insurance market that we in particular want to ensure can gain access to our insurance market,” said Landgraf who says she’s currently focused on marketing and outreach as the March 31st deadline to sign up for coverage approaches.

During a presentation to the Health Care Commission, Thursday, Landgraf pointed out the nationwide number of uninsured people expected to get coverage this year through the Affordable Care Act was also reduced by two million. Instead of the anticipated seven million people signing up through the federal and state marketplaces, the Congressional Budget Office expects six million enrollees, with another eight million sign-ups through the Medicaid expansion, down from nine million. Landgraf says the drop in the national numbers is directly linked to the challenges of the health care exchange in the first two months of open enrollment.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal