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Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt shared a similar take, referencing Trump’s incorrect claim that the GOP tax bill repealed the ACA.
ACA Open Enrollment Picture:— Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) December 21, 2017
2017: 1/2 as long as 2016
90% less ad budget as 2016
96% of the enrollment as 2016
The team reports that last week was the busiest week ever.
The ACA is not repealed and not going away.
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.”
Exchange open enrollment for 2018 coverage ended w/ approx 8.8M people enrolling in coverage. Great job to the @CMSGov team for the work you did to make this the smoothest experience for consumers to date. We take pride in providing great customer service.— CMS Administrator (@SeemaCMS) December 21, 2017
In a market that is experiencing soaring rates, I am proud of the hard work CMS put into making sure that our customers didn’t experience the website failures that were commonplace with https://t.co/Ew0H2vt9To in previous open enrollment periods.— CMS Administrator (@SeemaCMS) December 21, 2017
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%.
This year CMS took a more cost effective outreach approach, spending just over $1 per enrollee on outreach and education for Exchange coverage compared to nearly $11 per enrollee last year.— CMS Administrator (@SeemaCMS) December 21, 2017
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.