Healthcare.gov enrollment tops 8.8M, nearly reaching last year's total despite shortened sign-up window

Healthcare.gov homepage
Of the 8.8 million sign-up total, 2.4 million were new customers while 6.4 million were returning.

More than 8.8 million people signed up for health plans on the federal exchange during the most recent Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, the Trump administration said Thursday.

Though this year’s enrollment season was cut in half, that figure is still not far off the 9.2 million total that Healthcare.gov recorded last year. ACA advocates counted it as a victory.

“The strong enrollment—topping 8.8 million people this year—in the 39 states that use Healthcare.gov is irrefutable evidence that the marketplace is meeting a real and compelling need,” Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement.

Former Centers for Medicare Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt shared a similar take, referencing Trump’s incorrect claim that the GOP tax bill repealed the ACA.

Of the 8.8 million sign-up total, 2.4 million were new customers while 6.4 million were returning, according to CMS. The total enrollment figures from the states that run their own exchanges are not yet available, as many have sign-up deadlines that extend past the federal deadline of Dec. 15. 

Lori Lodes, a former Obama administration official who has helped coordinate an open enrollment promotion effort, noted in a post on Medium that the final enrollment figure for Healthcare.gov will likely be even higher than 8.8 million. That’s because the tally didn’t count Dec.15 sign-ups between midnight and 3 a.m., people in line with the call center or people in states impacted by the hurricanes and other extreme weather, who have longer to sign up.

In statements on Twitter announcing the enrollment tally, CMS Administrator Seema Verma credited the agency’s staff for making the sign-up season the “smoothest experience for consumers to date.”

She also offered support for the Trump administration’s reduction in open enrollment advertising and outreach. The administration cut funding for the ACA navigator program by about 40% and funding for ads by 90%. 

A recent analysis found that health insurers stepped up their advertising efforts during open enrollment to compensate for the federal government pulling back. In fact, it said the volume of TV ads during the first 37 days of open enrollment was up 51% compared to the same time period last year. Ads from private sponsors like insurers, though, almost never mentioned Healthcare.gov.

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