Though it's slowed, ACA signup pace still ahead of last year

Three weeks into the Affordable Care Act’s annual signup season, enrollment is still going strong.

Almost 800,000 people signed up for plans on between Nov. 12 and Nov. 18, according to the latest data from the federal government. That’s about 78,000 fewer than in the second week of open enrollment.

However, the total number of signups since enrollment season began Nov. 1 is now almost 2.28 million people—slightly more than in the first four weeks of open enrollment last year (Nov. 1 to Nov. 26), when signups totaled just under 2.14 million.

RELATED: Trump administration report shows ACA exchange signups are off to strong start

The strong pace of enrollment counters some predictions that signups would be down this year due to uncertainty over the future of the ACA and funding cuts for consumer outreach. For example, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s estimated that enrollment would be 7% to 13% lower for 2018 than it was for 2017.

But those predictions still could come true, as consumers have half as much time to enroll in ACA exchange plans for 2018 than they did in previous years. Republicans’ attempt to repeal the individual mandate in their tax bill may also depress enrollment—particularly among the younger, healthier consumers needed to balance out the individual market’s risk pool.

RELATED: CBO says individual mandate repeal would increase uninsured, reduce deficit by $338B

Last year, even with an open enrollment season that lasted from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, the 12.2 million signup total was slightly lower than the year before and well short of the Obama administration’s prediction of 13.8 million. At the time, some supporters of the healthcare law blamed newly elected President Donald Trump’s anti-ACA stance for those underwhelming enrollment figures.

This year, though, Republicans’ attempts to repeal the law—and all the news coverage it’s generated—could in fact be driving enrollment upward because of increased public awareness of the exchanges.