It's an older, costlier crowd that's signing up for health insurance under President Barack Obama's law.
Only 24 percent of ObamaCare's enrollees are young people according to the new data, well below the 40 percent benchmark set by the administration for the critical 18- to 34-year-old age group.
To keep premiums affordable, experts say it is vital that the law attract young and healthy "invincibles" unlikely to need critical care as well as uninsured people who are older and sicker.
A failure to improve on the numbers means insurers would need to raise prices next year, strengthening the position of Republican opponents who say Obamacare is not financially sustainable.
The administration struck a confident tone during a conference call with reporters, arguing that the law will work fine at present demographic levels. Officials said they expect young adults to sign up in higher numbers before open enrollment ends on March 31, as many observers expected younger and healthier people to put off enrolling until the last second.
Delew said the early demographics are in line with what the Massachusetts exchange experienced when it launched under then-governor Mitt Romney in 2007.
Still, the administration’s pushback Monday against the expectation that it needs 40 percent of the risk pool to be comprised of young adults might provoke critics to accuse them of once again moving the goalposts on what qualifies as a successful implementation.
Last year, the CBO estimate of 7 million ObamaCare enrollees by the end of March became the de facto benchmark, and was cited by some members of the Obama administration as the official goal.
But the botched rollout has left the administration well behind that target, and the White House has in recent weeks downplayed the importance of the number, and claimed that it was never a stated goal.
In addition, a Kaiser Family Foundation study released last year said that if 18 to 34-year olds made up only 25 percent of the pool of enrollees, as they do now, it would be a “worst case” scenario that could lead to higher premiums.
Kaiser also said the administration’s target for 18 to 34-year-olds should be 40 percent, because that’s the proportion of young adults in the potential market for private plans on the exchanges.
Nothing to see here, everything is ok, your government is handling it. Move along.