Final open enrollment surge might be less than expected

We will soon know for sure how many Americans signed up for 2016 health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but there are some indications that the final surge to sign-up for a health plan before the Jan. 31 deadline was less than expected, according to a CNBC report.

The fact that the third season of open enrollment under the ACA ended last Jan. 31, but the fact that federal officials on Monday weren't touting the number of Americans who enrolled could mean the surge wasn't as big when compared to past years, the report said.

In contrast to the first two open enrollment periods, the government usually sees a surge of people rushing to beat the deadline, but one insurance industry analyst told CNBC the last-minute surge did not occur as expected.

Without the big surge at the end, it could be harder for enrollment totals to grow significantly from 2015, CNBC said. As of the latest government numbers, 11.6 million people had signed up for plans, with a week to go before the deadline. In 2015, almost 11.7 million signed up for health insurance under the ACA.

Insurance analyst Robert Laszewski, who is head of Health Policy and Strategy Associates in Alexandria, Virginia, and an Obamacare critic, said insurers he is in touch with told him that volume increased in the final week compared to the rest of January, but was low when compared to the surges seen in the final week of 2014 and 2015 enrollment. 

But not everyone in the insurance industry was reporting lower than expected numbers in the final enrollment push. Chini Krishnan, CEO of the Web-based insurance brokerage GetInsured, told CNBC that the company exceeded sign-up levels seen during the last week of the 2015 open enrollment period.

Reports of low numbers also contrast with what government officials were reporting just day before the deadline. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt reported promising enrollment numbers, saying signup traffic on Healthcare.gov rose 50 percent higher than the previous week.

Data on the actual number of enrollees who signed up in the final week will be disclosed later this week, CMS spokeswoman Lori Lodes told CNBC. "It's been a good year. Compared to last year, more consumers are signed up for coverage, more consumers actively renewed their plans and more consumers had a smooth experience at Healthcare.gov," she said.

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