Over 1.1 million people enrolled in health insurance during the third and fourth weeks of open enrollment. According to a biweekly snapshot released on November 30 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), enrollment is gaining substantial ground as we head into the second month. The annual signup period runs from November 1 through January 31 for coverage starting in 2017. In total, more than 2.1 million people have gotten coverage through the federal marketplace at HealthCare.gov since Obamacare enrollment started.
Most of the customers on the exchanges are returning from 2016. Of the 2.1 million who’ve signed up, approximately 1.6 million already had plans in place and are renewing their coverage for next year. More than 500,000 new customers joined the ranks of the insured for 2017.
The CMS is currently tracking figures from the federal health insurance exchange site. As enrollment progresses, numbers from state-based marketplaces will be included in the tally. Some states are seeing significant signup numbers already. Over half a million people have enrolled in a qualifying health plan in Florida. Meanwhile, states with over 100,000 signups include North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Just four weeks into the open enrollment period, signups are higher than they were at the same time last year. The CMS tracks enrollment numbers from Sunday to Saturday, but this year’s signup period started on a Tuesday, resulting in two fewer days for the total count. Despite this shortage, enrollment has been stronger this year. Compared with the same time period last year, there have been 167,000 more plan selections. Overall, enrollment is up by 97,000 plan selections.
Political factors are undoubtedly playing a large role in the influx of marketplace enrollees. The day after the presidential election, enrollment surged. Apprehension over the future of the Affordable Care Act remains a driving force in health insurance enrollment this year. The ACA has been a pivotal piece of legislation for millions of Americans – 20 million, in fact, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Tax credits, Medicaid expansion and the ability of young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 contributed to the drop in the uninsured rate. Now, certain provisions of the law may be in jeopardy with a Republican president and Congress at the helm. Trump has expressed interest in keeping some aspects of the ACA intact, such as the provision that prevents insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Uncertainty about the plan going forward, however, is driving more consumers to the marketplaces to secure coverage for next year.
The government is still counting on young and healthy people to sign up for health insurance this year. It’s a demographic that hasn’t been as proactive in getting coverage as the Obama administration had hoped. Younger people with fewer medical problems need less care, and the cost of their coverage offsets the cost of care for older, sicker enrollees. Sylvia Burwell, secretary for the HHS, is urging consumers to enroll. She maintains that most people on the marketplace can find a plan for $75 a month or less after tax credits.
Another factor influencing enrollment is the mid-enrollment deadline for coverage starting on January 1. While consumers have until January 31 to sign up for a plan in 2017, the deadline to enroll in health insurance that starts on New Year’s Day is December 15. After that date, coverage will start on February 1 for people who sign up before January 15. For those who wait until the latter half of January, coverage starts on March 1. Another surge in signups is expected as the mid-enrollment deadline draws near.