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Friday, February 10, 2017

Fourth Open Enrollment Numbers Reveal High Demand for Affordable Care Act Coverage

Elizabeth Hagan

Associate Director of Coverage Initiatives

Despite the Trump administration’s attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions of consumers signed up for a health insurance plan during open enrollment period that ended January 31. 

Sign-ups for health coverage in the fourth open enrollment period remain strong

While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released only the enrollment numbers for people who live in states with a federally-facilitated marketplace (FFM), the numbers clearly show the demand for coverage.

The data show that 9.2 million people enrolled in health coverage in the fourth open enrollment period compared to 9.6 million people in the third open enrollment period. This speaks volumes, considering that nearly the entire length of the open enrollment period was filled with uncertainty over the future of the ACA. 

The enrollment numbers out so far for state-based marketplaces further show that people want to continue getting health coverage through the ACA. For example, Washington State reports a 13 percent increase over last year, and Massachusetts reports a 29 percent increase over last year. 

Taken together, the fourth open enrollment period was a remarkable success. We know that much of this success was due to the thousands of enrollment assisters across the country who helped consumers successfully enroll. 

In March, HHS is expected to release a final detailed open enrollment report that compiles FFM and SBM enrollment.  

The Trump administration’s commitment to repeal hurt consumers in the final lag

When President Trump took office, he signed an executive order signaling his administration’s intention to roll back pieces of the ACA. In the final week of the fourth open enrollment period, the Administration went so far as to pull back outreach and previously planned advertising. 

This last few weeks of open enrollment are typically a crucial time when enrollment surges, particularly among young adults. And the effect of the Administration’s actions is undeniable: Compared to the final two weeks of the third open enrollment period, the final two weeks of this open enrollment period saw fewer than half as many enrollees get health coverage. 

When news broke that the Trump administration pulled back outreach and advertisements for the ACA, consumer-focused groups, like Families USA, expressed our disappointment and concern through social media and other means. We were happy to see that this quickly led the Trump administration to reverse course and continue its planned outreach

Still, the former Chief Marketing Officer of HealthCare.gov estimates that the Administration’s efforts caused at least half a million people to miss out on getting health coverage. 

Enrollment numbers emphasize that people value their health coverage

Some in Congress have argued that low enrollment numbers indicate unpopularity with the health law, furthering their intent to repeal and replace. But these enrollment numbers, coupled with recent polling that indicates a majority of people support the ACA, send a clear message to Congress and the Administration—people value their health coverage and do not want Congress to repeal it.

Learn about our Protect Our Care initiative and what you can do to protect the coverage and consumer protections achieved under the ACA.

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