The number of Americans signing up for health-care plans under the Affordable Care Act continues to run ahead of last year in states relying on the federal insurance exchange, according to federal figures released Wednesday that span nearly half of an abbreviated enrollment season.
Between the start of the current sign-up period on Nov. 1 and Saturday, nearly 2.28 million people chose health-care plans for the coming year — slightly more than during the first four weeks of the ACA enrollment period a year ago, reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show.
The latest enrollment “snapshot” shows a mild dip in the one-week sign-up figures this fall, with just under 800,000 people selecting plans during the third week, about 78,000 fewer than the week before. But the proportion of newcomers to ACA insurance crept up, rising from 23 percent of the enrollment during the first two weeks to nearly 28 percent during the third week.
The latest evidence of persistent consumer interest in ACA coverage was immediately embraced by advocates for the 2010 health-care law. The data does not, however, solve the mystery of why enrollment figures are defying widespread predictions that the Trump administration’s assertive opposition to the law — including a 90 percent cut in advertising and other outreach strategies to encourage people to sign up — would dampen Americans’ response.
It is possible that the higher enrollment so far reflects public understanding that this sign-up season lasts six weeks, half as long as in the past few years, so people are hurrying to act early before the Dec. 15 deadline. Only when the final total becomes available will it become clear whether the availability of ACA health plans, which are subsidized for millions of people, has become entrenched enough in the American consciousness that enrollment can withstand months of naysaying by President Trump and confusion sowed by congressional Republicans’ unsuccessful efforts to dismantle major parts of the law.
The figures include people choosing ACA plans for 2018 in the 39 states that rely on HealthCare.gov, the website for the federal marketplace. It excludes enrollment in the remaining states and the District, which run their own insurance marketplaces under the law. The count refers to people who have selected a plan. Based on past years’ experience, most but not all of those people will go on to start paying monthly premiums that will put their insurance into effect. The coverage, sold by private insurers, is intended for individuals and families who do not have access to affordable health benefits through a job.
For the first time this season, Wednesday’s figures include a state breakdown. It shows that places with lots of ACA customers in the past are drawing a lot again. Floridians have chosen the most health plans so far this season — about 498,000. North Carolina is next, with 139,000 signing up, followed by Georgia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.