HHS: Exchange Sign-Ups Reach 9.5M in Second Enrollment Period
On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced that 9.5 million U.S. residents have signed up for health plans through the exchanges so far during the Affordable Care Act's second open enrollment period, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 1/27).
Federal, State Enrollment Figures
According to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, 7.1 million consumers as of Jan. 16 signed up for plans on HealthCare.gov (Humer/Morgan, Reuters, 1/27). Of those who signed up for coverage through the federal exchange:
- 4.1 million consumers selected or were automatically signed up for the same plan they had in 2014 or in similar plans; and
- Three million selected exchange plans for the first time.
Meanwhile, Burwell said 2.4 million consumers signed up for plans through state-run exchanges.
The administration said states with the highest sign-up numbers included:
- Florida, where 1.3 million people signed up through the federal exchange;
- California, where 1.2 million people signed up through the state-run exchange (New York Times, 1/27);
- Texas, with almost 920,000 sign-ups;
- North Carolina, with about 460,000 sign-ups; and
- Georgia, with more than 425,000 sign-ups (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Washington Times, 1/27).
In addition, Burwell said 87% of individuals who have signed up for coverage so far qualified for federal subsidies to help purchase coverage through the exchanges. According to the administration:
- 70% of the enrollees selected silver-level exchange plans; and
- 19% selected bronze-level coverage.
Burwell said, "We still have a lot of work to do" before the open enrollment period ends on Feb. 15, but that she is "encouraged by the strong interest we've seen so far." According to the New York Times, the White House expects the number of enrollments to surge leading up to the Feb. 15 deadline.
Enrollment Figures Tentative
Officials said that while the 9.5 million figure surpasses the administration's goal of enrolling 9.1 million individuals, it is unlikely that all of the people who signed up for coverage will pay their first month's premiums, which completes the enrollment process and activates coverage.
For example, more than 15% of individuals who enrolled in exchange plans during last year's open enrollment period failed to pay their first month's premiums, according to the New York Times. Officials said they expect similar numbers this year (New York Times, 1/27). The administration did not specify how many of the 9.5 million enrollees had already paid their first month's premiums (Reuters, 1/27).
Young Adult Sign-Ups Similar to 2014 Figures
In related news, the percentage of young adults who have signed up for exchange coverage so far in the second open enrollment period is similar to the percentage who signed up last year, CQ HealthBeat reports.
About 26% of U.S. residents who have signed up for exchange coverage so far during the second open enrollment period are ages 18 to 34. In comparison, about 25% of all individuals who signed up for exchange coverage by Feb. 1, 2014 -- during last year's open enrollment period -- were in the same age group.
While the share of young adult sign-ups could increase by the enrollment period's Feb. 15 deadline, the figures so far are raising questions about whether insurers could raise premiums next year to accommodate for older, sicker risk pools, CQ HealthBeat reports. According to CQ HealthBeat, two of three major programs intended to protect insures from losses are scheduled to expire in 2016 (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 1/27).
Officials, Advocates Ramp Up Young Adult Outreach
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy earlier this week joined Young Invincibles, Enroll America and other advocacy groups as part of growing outreach efforts designed to encourage young adult enrollment, The Hill reports (Ferris, The Hill, 1/27).
According to Politico, the advocacy groups have changed their strategies for targeting young adults this year to a more local, direct approach, such as partnerships with community organizations (Villacorta, Politico, 1/28). The groups are ramping up their outreach efforts, with plans to hold about 250 health care fairs this week, as well as more casual events including poetry slams and bar nights.
Murthy on Tuesday touted enrollment for young adults, noting that as a physician, he has seen young adults diagnosed with life-threatening diseases. He said, "The common denominator, with most of the young people I worked with, is that most of them were pretty healthy and never thought they'd get ill. That's why coverage is so important for millennials" (The Hill, 1/27).
Separately, Erin Hemlin, health care campaign director for Young Invincibles, said her group is "pretty happy" with the young adult sign-up numbers so far, adding that "we expect it to be a surge toward the end" of the open enrollment period (Politico, 1/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.