Why hardly anyone signed up for Obamacare

It may seem surprising that just 106,000 Americans managed to enroll in Obamacare in October. That is, until one considers human nature.

By Money Staff Nov 14, 2013 12:10PM

This post comes from Jonnelle Marte of Marketwatch.

MarketWatch on MSN MoneyIt may seem surprising that just 106,000 Americans managed to enroll in Obamacare, choosing a health plan through the new state or federally run insurance exchanges. That is, until one considers human nature.

Prescription medicine expenses © Don Farrall/Photodisc/Getty ImagesThough the enrollment is about 1.5% of the 7 million people expected to buy coverage through the exchanges next year, and well below expectations for the first month, experts say there’s reason to think our procrastination may be as much to blame as bad programming.

People typically approach healthcare open enrollment in waves, with a burst of people, usually about 15% of participants, signing up at the start of the enrollment period and then a huge rush of purchases happening toward the end of the period, says Tony DeNucci, a managing director with Towers Watson, a professional services company. “There are people who aren’t paying attention and don’t want to deal with it until the last minute,” says DeNucci.

The type of person who enrolls in next year’s insurance plan six weeks in advance is also the type of person who files their tax return in January. About 22% of people make insurance decisions in the last two days of open enrollment periods, health officials said during a media call Wednesday. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, also attributed some of the delay to the idea that consumers often take their time making health insurance decisions. “Insurance is very different than buying a toaster,” Sebelius said during the call. “As more people shop and talk things over with their families we expect these numbers to rise.”

Even people who signed up for insurance on Oct.1—to the extent that they were able to given technical setbacks on HealthCare.gov and some of the state-run exchanges—won’t be covered until Jan. 1, and won’t have a premium payment until roughly Dec. 15. It wouldn’t be surprising, financial experts say, if many people were waiting to get closer to that moment of gratification to take action. “People are often reactive rather than proactive,” says Taylor Gang, a principal at Evensky & Katz, a wealth management firm based in Coral Gables, Fla.

The hundreds of thousands of people who moved to sign up for insurance as soon as open enrollment kicked off on Oct. 1 were likely those who needed it more urgently, either because of a health condition or because they wanted to know if they will receive federal subsidies to lower insurance costs, says Robert Laszewski, a health insurance consultant at Health Policy and Strategy Associates. The rest may drag their feet, he says. “People will wait,” says Laszewski. “The real test for Obamacare will not come until people can expect a smooth experience on the website, through the community navigators, and in the call centers.”

Insurance activity can pick up in the middle of an open enrollment period if companies send out reminder messages, Towers Watson said. Officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said earlier this week they are attempting to boost enrollment by emailing roughly 275,000 people who struggled to create accounts on HealthCare.gov because of technical issues to come back to the site and try again. Officials also said they would reach out later to people who were able to create accounts but haven’t picked a plan.

The majority of Americans who chose insurance plans through the public exchanges, or 75%, did so through state-based exchanges. Only 26,794 people signed up through the federally run exchanges on HealthCare.gov. Enrollment was defined as people who selected plans on the website whether or not they made their first payment. Health officials said people who are having trouble signing up for insurance through the public exchanges can sign up directly through insurance companies. Some people who think they may be eligible for subsidies but are struggling to complete their applications can sign up directly through their insurer and apply for subsidies later. Open enrollment ends March 31.

More from Marketwatch:


1. The site is a nightmare to navigate. 

2. The cost of having the Democratic "sin" coverage is too great.

3. You can't purchase just what you need.

4. Whatever the Fed touches goes to hell in a hand basket.

5. People don't like to be "forced' to do anything.

Nov 14, 2013 1:26PM

What a totally slanted "wishful thinking" article.   Get a clue - Obama can't make a better pizza than Papa Johns.    The people just don't want his product at its price. Even outlawing the competitors recipes and penalties to those that don't buy enough of his pizza isn't working.  His only customers are those that can buy his pizzas at well below cost and sometimes they get to take his pizzas home for free.  OOOPS - are those really customers or is this just more of the same old "I'll give you free stuff (that I'll take from your neighbor that has more than you)  if you vote for me."


Wake Up America.

Nov 14, 2013 12:52PM
Maybe the fact that it's much higher premiums, much higher deductibles, charges for services not needed, needs all of your personal information entered on a website with questionable reliability and security before you even get to pick your policy, has questionable "Navigators" who hint that you should lie about your finances and "suggest" how to vote, etc., etc., etc. has something to do with it? 
Nov 14, 2013 2:12PM

why ?

1) an idiot promoted it and signed it into law

2) idiots voted for it and did not read it

3) the government did not listen to the people

4) it forces us to buy something we dont want or need

5 the law puts government in the middle of a personal choice and over rules your freedoms of choice for you and your family

6) as usual with anything doing with the government it costs way more than planned

7 it removes personal responsibility for the so called greater good)

8 it is unconstitutional on its face no matter what the supreme court said. the government has the right to tax but not for something they do not provide. since the insurance is handled thru a third party the government is not allowed to tax for it as they are not providing the servce or goods

9) clueless people voted for it and exempted themselves.

there are many more reasons but I guess the bigest one is the fact that the majority of peple did not want the law and the congress and senate who passed it had no clue what was in it   (aka pelosi).

kill the law and start over letting the people bvote on this item specifically

Nov 14, 2013 12:48PM
Maybe people aren't signing up because they don't want to enter all of their personal information into a system that doesn't have the most basic security measures.
Nov 14, 2013 2:11PM
But hold on:  Now Obama is saying he will delay people losing their insurance for a year.  Oh?  I though Obama care was the "Law of the Land" as all you libbies like to say.  Really?  Then why can his highness make a decree and change the law to suit his approval rating numbers?  This law is a stinker, and the idiot affirmative action president hallucinates that he can just utter a word and everything changes.  Hold this moron's feet to the fire until he gives an honest account of what he knows, doesn't know and what the law actually says.

Nov 14, 2013 2:33PM
Nov 14, 2013 2:18PM

ObamaCare was designed to fail so that Single Payer can be rammed down our throats!


It was never about healthcare, is has always been about power.

Nov 14, 2013 1:37PM
For those of us who once worked in Corporate America and were mass-terminated, the whole ACA ObamaCare debacle is a highly familiar lesson in futility. Of all the things to enact without reading, Congress condemned itself. There was no priority given to recovering careers, stabilizing homes or throwing the Gramm Leach Bliley Act out for being falsely enacted (it was slipped into another Act). We have pretty much endured the same politicians who got us into this predicament, fighting like a McCoy Hatfield feud without care consideration or attention to the plight of the people who elected them. It's not time to do anything with healthcare, especially a crap package like this one. It's time to sober up, fix OUR economy, wipe out anti-American mindsets living well off America and dump all the pretense. 
No one is going to sign up now. What they WILL sign is a broad Impeachment Petition that get's a bunch of career politicians OUT, wipes out THEIR lives and blockades THEM from gainful post career employment. Eat GMO you lowlifes. Recover the America that supported an economy... stuff the Text Peckers in a rocket along with their $700 TRILLION virtual business platforms and seat-warmer careers and aim it far far away from Earth.
OBAMA... FIX SMETHING RELEVANT OR JUMP, but spare us the volumes of legalese and poor ethics. Either you are the WHOLE nation's President or just another TERRORIST. You certainly lack POTUS relevance today. Twit THAT, loser. 
Nov 14, 2013 1:39PM
I can't sign up, even though the site said it is free (after subsidies). If I sign up, I will have to pay $550 per month every month all of next year and the government is not going to give me my reach around federal income tax credit of $6,600 until February of 2015. I don't have $6,600 to loan the government for 13 months. That would leave me with no money for my beer and cigarettes.  Signed---John Q. Shyster 
Nov 14, 2013 2:22PM
1.  I don't want to have to enter any personal information about me or my family just to find out how much the plans will cost.
Nov 14, 2013 2:25PM
Nov 14, 2013 1:40PM


1. Initially the people without a job and no money...will sign up quickly for the health care subsidy.

2. Many people won't sign up and will just want to wait and see if Obamacare will fail time-wise and be delayed or they think costs will come down after more people sign up.

3. A huge amount of people (young and old) will research Obamacare and weigh things out and figure out it's cheaper to pay the small fine and wait until they need healthcare because now there's no pre-existing conditions. It's like paying a very small monthly amount $5. (instead of $70.) to drive your car, and then after the accident you buy the insurance to cover costs of the repairs and injuries.


..In the end Obamacare WILL FAIL and will go the way of the "Pet Rocks". I can see it now, "branded" we'll see our old former president in 2030, and he'll be remember, associated and talk of in regards to his failed Obamacare plan he tried to push through. Gosh, I feel bad for him. It sucks.

Nov 14, 2013 2:10PM
They can paint the reasons behind lack of enrollment any color they want.  It only changes the appearance, not the reality or substance behind the image being painted.  The truth of the matter is that when you try to shove something down the throats of Americans, we become opposition ally defiant.  And, why should be risk jumping into a pit of snakes when we don't know just how many are poisonous.  We aren't lemings that will just follow their leader over the cliff to our destruction!!!
Nov 14, 2013 2:17PM
People didn't sign up because 85% of us were happy with how things were and the other 15% is where they are because of things like not signing up anyway so why would they start now.
Nov 14, 2013 12:54PM
What is Obama care? is it like welfare health care? I thought "county hospital was for people who cant afford, which I had to use once before,   Will I go to jail if I don't enroll in Obama care? thanks
Nov 14, 2013 2:14PM
First you have to pass it then you can see what's in it.
Nov 14, 2013 1:31PM

I don't like Obama, he is a lair and I want him impeached!! However, no bodies all bad. Obama has done a couple of good things, although I don't think he no it. Racism in America is going to become part of history. The only people who want racism is Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the NAACP and that is because they make money from racism. The other thing is obamacare is destroying socialism, liberalism and this government can solve all ideology. The American people want to be responsible themselves, their families and their government.

Nov 14, 2013 2:27PM
The democrats stayed behind close doors when contriving this idiotic plan. This was going to be their legacy. Now, "pukelosi" can't say enough, "we need to come together in a non-partisan way" to work through this. They pushed something they had never read and probably still haven't. I hope the democrats get their do, and if the people in pelosis and reids district vote these two in again, they deserve everything they get.  
Nov 14, 2013 2:38PM
It's a DUD because it was passed by a bunch of liberal progressive demowits with back room deals and bribes against the will of the majority of the American people. That majority is the working middle class. We didn't want it and they passed the POS anyway. It's nothing but redistribution of wealth. Taking away from the people that have insurance and pay their own way to give it to people that don't do sh-t but vote for demowits to get more free sh-t. This POS needs to be repealed now before it completely destroys the country and creates a huge divide in the American people that will never be mended. This is completely against everything this country was founded on. If I didn't have insurance or if my insurance were taken away, I wouldn't purchase a damn thing from this POS government.
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