Obama's ACA enrollment goal both practical and political

Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated when HHS estimated there would be 10 million marketplace enrollees. It estimates 10 million will have marketplace coverage by the end of 2016.

The federal government may seem to be setting a low bar with its plan to have 10 million people enrolled in Affordable Care Act plans by the end of 2016, but the number comes from careful calculations--both practical and political, according to the New York Times.

As many as 11.7 million people had enrolled on the ACA marketplaces at the end of the previous open enrollment period, a figured that dipped to 9.9 million by the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) last count at the end of June. That means HHS will have to get 100,000 more people to enroll in order to reach its end-of-year goal.

Part of the motivation for the modest projection may be the Obama administration's attempt to manage expectations for the president's signature law ahead of the 2016 elections, the Times posits. 

But other experts say that given how challenging it is for the marketplaces to keep some customers enrolled, the goal of 10 million is simply realistic--those who were easiest to enroll have already done so.

Indeed, HHS has said it expects this to be the most challenging open enrollment period yet.

Robert Laszewski, a consultant who works with insurance companies, was surprised the goal was so low. "You need almost twice that number to have a viable pool of policyholders with enough healthy people to pay for the sick," he told theTimes.

One method that the federal government uses to encourage health insurance enrollment is the financial penalty it levies on those who decline insurance. With the fine set to jump to $695 next year or 2.5 percent of household income, HHS is expected to put greater emphasis on the penalty to motivate the remaining uninsured to seek coverage, the Associated Press reports.  

To learn more:
- read the Times report
- here's the AP article