Obamacare enrollment dips compared to past year (but better than anticipated)

Lester Mason
December 22, 2017

Congressional Republicans just passed a tax bill repealing the law's individual mandate, which means insurers are going to be re-evaluating whether it's profitable for them to offer plans next year. Both numbers exclude the millions more who enrolled in Obamacare through state-run marketplaces, like those in New York, California, and about a dozen other states.

This year's strong enrollment came despite a GOP-led effort to repeal or gut the program including slashing advertising by 90%. Some were unaware of open enrollment deadlines. In the end, 8.8 million people enrolled in 2018 coverage through the federally run marketplace despite a shortened sign-up period and slashed federal funding for advertisements and enrollment assistance. For now, it looks like Obamacare is struggling on, still miles below what the CBO originally predicted but doing better than many people thought it would in a tough year.

Including states operating their own exchanges, where enrollment is generally still open, Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net now projects that signups could hit 12 million, just shy of this year's 12.2 million.

Nine of the 17 states where people can still sign up for 2018 coverage - including California, Maryland, Connecticut and NY - operate their own marketplaces and are holding longer enrollment periods.

The Trump administration sought to cast a positive spin on the enrollment season, noting it spent far less on advertising for almost the same number of sign ups. In California, for instance, more than 1.4 million people have signed up for health coverage as of December 15.

Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act plans dipped slightly this year over last year, according to the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. At the start of enrollment, navigators said consumers were confused about whether they'd receive federal financial help.

About 8.8 million people signed up for 2018 Obamacare health insurance plans on the federally run HealthCare.gov, a top USA health official said on Thursday, about a 4 percent decline from sign-ups for 2017. The tax plan ends fines for people who don't carry health insurance.

Enrollment isn't final until consumers pay their first month's premium.

A decline was anticipated after some insurers fled the Obamacare marketplace, leaving consumers with fewer choices, and others raised premiums.

This is exactly what insurers fear.

"Our organisations, representing millions of Americans, including those with chronic and serious health conditions, are gravely disappointed that Congress voted to repeal the individual mandate as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act with no workable alternative to take its place". This is also expected to tilt the individual market to older and sicker consumers.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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