Though Healthcare.gov signups increase in week 5, enrollment total may still fall short

Document titled, Affordable Care Act
A little more than 823,000 people selected plans on the federal health insurance exchange during the week of Nov. 26 to Dec. 2. (Getty/Designer491)

While Healthcare.gov signups picked up in the fifth week of open enrollment, it’s likely that the final enrollment total will fall short of last year's.

A little more than 823,000 people selected plans on the federal exchange during the week of Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That’s considerably more than the roughly 500,000 who did so the week prior, when the Thanksgiving holiday likely played a role in depressing enrollment.

Since the annual enrollment period began, there have been a little more than 3.6 million signups—a figure that includes both new plan selections and active plan renewals for customers in the 39 states that use Healthcare.gov.

Enrollment this year has consistently beaten last year’s pace, but because the open enrollment period has been cut in half, it will be challenging to meet or exceed the 9.2 million signups that Healthcare.gov recorded for 2017. About 5.6 million people would have to enroll between Dec. 3 and Dec. 15, the final two weeks of open enrollment, to reach that total.

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“The demand is just so big this year, but there’s little time left,” Lori Lodes, who oversaw open enrollment outreach and public education during the Obama administration, told the Associated Press.

Including both the Healthcare.gov states and the states that run their own exchanges (plus the District of Columbia), last year’s overall enrollment total was 12.2 million. The ratings agency Standard & Poor’s previously estimated that this year’s total will be 7% to 13% lower than that, or in the range of 10.6 million to 11.4 million.

In addition to the shortened amount of time for enrollment, this year’s signup season for Affordable Care Act exchange plans has had other obstacles. For one, the Trump administration has drastically reduced funding for advertising and outreach activities, and efforts to repeal and undermine the law may contribute to consumer confusion.

However, some have also suggested that all the attention given to the healthcare law this year is actually fueling the strong pace of enrollment.