6 million in Obamacare: what does that tell us?

Published 03/28 2014 03:12PM

Updated 03/28 2014 03:17PM

Here’s what we know: More than 6 million people have signed up for private coverage on insurance exchanges set up through Obamacare.

Here’s what we don’t know: pretty much anything else.

The 6 million doesn’t account for the low-income people who have enrolled in Medicare or the people who couldn’t enroll in Medicare because their states chose not to participate.

Finally, the administration has not said who these 6 million people are. Are they young or old? How many of them have paid their premiums? Will insurance companies have to dramatically raise premiums next year? These are key questions that will be needed to put the 6 million in its proper perspective and give Obamacare a full checkup.

This is either a remarkable turnaround or another example of failure, depending on who you talk to. That’s the politics of Obamacare.

As CNN's Christine Romans said this morning, the 6 million figure “exceeds lowered expectations.”

Unpack that phrase.

That expectation was lowered to 6 million after the epic failure of the insurance exchange rollout back in October. So hitting 6 million enrollments is amazing when you view it through the lens of October, when people who desperately wanted to enroll could not.

But it is a million short of the original expectation. From an insurance policy standpoint, it probably doesn’t even matter that much.

Obamacare is a national law, but it plays out at the local level. And it is on the local level that Obamacare will succeed or fail. Insurance exchanges are administered at the state level and insurance pools are divided into even smaller groupings. Many states administering their own exchanges are doing well. States - most of them red ones - that chose to rely on the federal government have far lower enrollment.

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