Why the latest Obamacare 'delay' is a good thing

The Obama administration’s announcement that it will allow people who have struggled to enroll in health insurance a few more weeks to sign up is a smart move, not another sign of “Obamacare” trouble.

Giving people more time is a logical step, both because the requirement that people buy insurance is new and the dismal initial start of healthcare.gov discouraged many from trying to enroll last year.

This delay has little impact on the insurance process, because whether you buy insurance on March 26 or April 5, the coverage was not going to start until May 1 anyway.

The high number of delays over the last four months have suggested the administration did not adequately prepare for the rollout of the law.  That’s a political problem for President Obama and perhaps one of the reasons polls continue to show the health care law is unpopular with the public.

But these delays are having little impact on the experience for most people getting insurance. It appears that close to 6 million people will sign up for plans by the end of this first enrollment period, below the 7 million that Obama administration officials had hoped for, but a high enough number that it illustrates that the core Obamacare model is working for a large bloc of people.

And despite intense media attention around the question of young people getting insurance, health care experts say the current mix, in which about a quarter of the people enrolling in health insurance plans are between ages 18 and 34, is sufficient that insurance companies are not likely to hike prices significantly for insurance in 2015.

“People showed up and voted with their feet,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It proved what every health policy person already knew, that uninsured people desperately want coverage, so it’s useful if it’s 5 million, 6 million or 7 million, just as a general barometer for the desire of coverage.”