The Week Ahead: Health reform to yield data, but not much

November 9, 2013 

Big Data is the big thing in our modern economy. The Google-ization of business has left digital trails from every smartphone, tablet and connected device. The more robust the data, the more telling it can be about who is buying what, when and for how much. The quality of Big Data rests with the quality of lots of small data. And the sign-up data coming in from HealthCare.gov likely has been infinitesimal compared to the possibilities.

In the new week, the Department of Health and Human Services has promised to release the first quantifiable look at the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. The data will be important for what it will confirm (the technical meltdown that was the roll-out of the federal government's health

insurance marketplace) and what it won't tell us (whether it will bend the curve of ever-escalating health care costs).

By the second morning of open enrollment, government documents have shown there were only six successful health insurance enrollments through the federal government's website for 36 states. Health and Human Services has disputed the half-dozen count, saying it was not an official enrollment statistic. Presumably, an official number is what will be released in the new week.

Investors in hospitals, medical device makers and health insurance providers have bet on more Americans getting health coverage. Anyone with health insurance has his or her future premiums on the line. And tomorrow's taxpayers have skin in the game. The Big Data needed to make better decisions about health care won't be forthcoming this week.

Tom Hudson, financial journalist, hosts "The Sunshine Economy" on WLRN-FM in Miami. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television.

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