Week Six Enrollment Update


December 13, 2017

Nearly 1.1 million people signed up for health insurance during week six of open enrollment using the federal exchange site at HealthCare.gov, according to data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The annual signup window for private, nongroup health insurance lasted just 45 days this year and will end this Friday, December 15.

Of the 1,073,921 people who chose a health plan on the federal marketplace from December 3 to December 9, most were returning customers from last year. New customers totaled just 388,984 or about 36 percent of the tally. Cumulative enrollment through December 9 stands at 4.7 million, but unlike in previous years when enrollment stretched until the end of January, consumers in most states have just two more days to pick a major medical plan for 2018.

The CMS tracks enrollment data for the 39 states that use HealthCare.gov. For states with their own exchanges, current signup data isn’t consistently available. Among the federal exchange states, Florida stands out as the top-ranking state for signups this year. In total, the Sunshine State has enlisted 1,021,576 people into healthcare plans for 2018. Following at a distant second is Texas with 579,688 enrollees, and rounding out the top five are North Carolina (271,301), Georgia (246,270) and Pennsylvania (205,909). Virginia falls right on the heels of fifth place with 203,441 signups this year.

Despite promising headlines about a boon in signups over previous years, actual enrollment percentages compared against previous years tell a different story for the ACA’s fifth signup period.

During weeks five and six in 2016, cumulative enrollment hit 1,877,922 people while in the previous year (2015), signups reached over 2.1 million people during the same biweekly snapshot. This year’s total for weeks five and six is just 20,000 more than during the same time last year, and this year’s enrollment season will last half as long for most customers. The numbers are even worse when you compare them against projections made by various entities – including the CMS itself – before the Obamacare marketplaces even opened.

According to data published by the CMS and reported by Forbes, enrollment has fallen well below official projections every year since the start. In 2014, actual enrollment represented 32 percent of projected enrollment; actual enrollment fell shy by half during the 2015 signup period; in 2016, actual enrollment reached 40 percent of the CMS projection; and last year, when the CMS estimated that nearly 30 million people would sign up for health insurance, actual enrollment hit just 33 percent of that projection.

For 2018, Charles Gaba with ACASignups.net projected that enrollment would reach 31.4 million people. It’s likely that actual signups will reach just 23 percent of that projection based on the numbers so far. In fact, if the pace continues as it has, enrollment will cap at around 4.9 million, ranking this year’s signup season as the lowest of all the years, including the first one, which was rife with problems.

It’s unclear how enrollment will finish up this year, but it’s not looking good as we head into the final days. Among states with their own exchanges, nine have extended open enrollment, some with deadlines running through January 31 for 2018 coverage. Nationwide, the signup period ends on December 15.