Clarification: The reference to enrollments in this article requires clarification. During Week One, 36,000 consumers completed the eligibility application on Healthcare.gov, rather than fully enrolled in a plan as was originally suggested. Completion of this application is required before consumers are able to compare healthcare options and select a plan. An update on Healthcare.gov’s performance in Week 2 is available here.
Since October 1st, Americans living in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. can purchase healthcare through exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare.) Little information has been made available by the administration on the level of interest these exchanges have received or more importantly the number of consumers who actually enrolled, although the rollout has been plagued with widespread reports of system outages and bugs.
We prepared the following analysis in order to provide visibility around consumer activity on the various healthcare exchanges since the launch of Obamacare.
Over the course of Obamacare’s first week, 9.5 million people visited healthcare.gov, the federal government’s official healthcare website and the de facto exchange for residents of two thirds of the states. In addition, the 16 operational state-run exchanges combined to attract over 3.1 million visitors during the same period. In total, 11.3 million consumers visited the federal and state exchanges during their first week of operation. Unfortunately, what started as a fire hose of interest, resulted in only a small trickle of actual healthcare enrollments.
Among the visitors to healthcare.gov, 5.7 million (or 60% of total visitors to the site) navigated to the individual marketplace landing page where, after selecting their state, they were either directed to continue using the federal site or were redirected to their state-run exchange. From here 1.3 million left for their state-run exchange, while another 3.7 million attempted to register on healthcare.gov. The latter didn’t get far. For two thirds of these consumers, the site either hung or failed altogether before it was finally taken offline over the first weekend.
Despite a myriad of issues with the site, just over a million consumers actually made it through the first gauntlet and successfully registered on healthcare.gov, after which they were sent verification emails. Problems persisted as consumers next encountered difficulty verifying their email addresses and logging into the accounts they had just created. Over 214,000 consumers sought help on the “I’m having trouble logging in to my marketplace account” page, making it one of the most popular pages on the site. Just 27% of those who registered on healthcare.gov successfully logged into accounts.
For those that could log in, the next step was enrollment. Over 196,000 consumers began the over 30-step enrollment process that first week, although the majority stopped well short of completion. This is likely a reflection both of continued technical issues as well as consumers lacking the requisite time, information (or patience?) to proceed through all the enrollment steps. In the end, just 36,000 consumers, or 1% of all those who attempted to register for the federal exchange, successfully enrolled in Obamacare.
Healthcare.gov was clearly unprepared to handle the huge spike in traffic witnessed on October 1st when it was visited by .9% (or 1 in 114) of everyone online in the U.S. This is roughly equivalent to the daily traffic on Target.com.
One area were Healthcare.org succeeded was in funneling consumers to state-run exchanges, which collectively averaged five-fold increases in weekly traffic during the first week of the month thanks to the 1.3 million visitors referred by healthcare.gov. Interest in these state-run exchanges varied by state and reflects differences across the country in terms of awareness and levels of uninsured.
In Massachusetts, for example, where just 4% of the population is uninsured, traffic to its exchange was relatively low at just under 1% of the population. Of course Massachusetts has been operating an exchange for years so the impact of Obamacare is likely to be more modest that in other areas of the country. By way of contrast, 9.5% of Vermont’s population visited its exchange during that first week as the state seeks to shrink its ranks of uninsured below the current 9%.
Although healthcare.gov has had a rocky start, the fact that millions of Americans not only visited the exchanges but also took what actions they could to register and enroll suggests that demand indeed exists for new healthcare options. As the site improves and more consumers are able to progress through the enrollment process, the ranks of the newly insured will rise. In time, it will be up to consumers to decide how truly affordable Obamacare turns out to be.
This research is based on data from the Compete panel of 2 million US consumers. The data are weighted, normalized and projected to represent the US Internet population. For this analysis, we measured the number of people visiting various pages on Healthcare.gov, and then projected the incidence of this behavior.
As VP of Retail and Consumer Products at Compete, Matt Pace is responsible for leading a team of client services professionals who deliver digital intelligence and insights to clients in the retail and consumer packaged good industries. Before Matt joined the Compete Team he was a CPA and senior auditor with Deloitte & Touche. Follow Matt on Twitter @mattpace.