Since the 2017 open enrollment period started on November 15, more than 4 million people have enrolled in a qualifying health plan via the federal marketplace at HealthCare.gov. With about six weeks left until the annual signup period ends, the number of people gaining access to affordable health plans continues to rise.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administers the health care program and oversees its progress. In its biweekly snapshot released on December 14, the CMS notes that enrollment is substantially higher than the same time period last year. Already during the first 40 days of enrollment for 2017, there have been 250,000 more signups than there were in 2016. Even more impressive is the fact that this year’s tally includes two fewer days. Enrollment started on a Tuesday this year, but signup totals are calculated from Sunday to Saturday.
Enrollment was expected to surge around this point in the process. Consumers have until January 31 to sign up for health insurance for 2017, but there’s a separate deadline of December 15 for plans that start on January 1. After December 15, coverage will start on February 1 or March 1 depending on when a person enrolls and pays his first premium. For coverage that starts on day one of the new year, enrollment has to happen by December 15.
Nearly 13.4 million people have browsed the federal marketplace since enrollment began, 6.5 million of whom visited in the last two weeks alone. The HealthCare.gov call center has also heard from over 4.6 million people since November 1. With uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act, more people are looking into their options for coverage.
President-elect Trump has vowed time and again to repeal and replace the ACA, but recent reports suggest that he may be more willing to retain critical portions of the law. The Republican Party, on the other hand, has continued its repeal-and-replace rhetoric, which has evolved over the last few weeks into a repeal-and-delay tactic that may push concrete reforms to 2019 or later. In any event, health care in America is changing once again, but no one knows for sure just how much. Those who need health insurance in 2017 will need to enroll by the end of January to secure coverage.
Most of the people who have signed up for health insurance so far are returning from last year. Of the 4 million enrollees, 2.9 million have renewed their plans for 2017. That leaves 1.1 million people who are getting coverage for the first time via the federal exchange site.
Right now, the CMS is only tracking enrollment figures for states that use HealthCare.gov. Updated reports with figures from state-based marketplaces will be included as enrollment continues. Florida, Texas and North Carolina have the highest overall totals so far. The biweekly snapshot for weeks five and six includes figures from certain designated market areas, like Atlanta and Chicago. In the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area, 343,473 people have chosen a plan for 2017.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported earlier this year that about 85 percent of marketplace enrollees qualify for cost assistance. Federal subsidies are among the key features of Obamacare. Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the HHS, continues to encourage consumers who may be on the fence about health insurance to sign up for next year. Most people can find coverage for less than $75 a month after tax credits. Open enrollment ends January 31.