ACA open enrollment signups: 540,000 and climbing

More than 540,000 people signed up for health insurance in the first week of the Affordable Care Act's third open enrollment period, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a blog post that she's happy with the numbers.

"It's a solid start and I'm pleased with the consumer engagement we've seen over this last week," she wrote. "Our partners were ready to work, and people were ready to sign up.  We know we have 11 more weeks to go and a lot of hard work still to do."

This year's numbers are almost 20 percent greater than in 2014, as about 450,000 signed up in the first week last year. Additionally, the number of people renewing plans was up: In 2014, about 52 percent of healthcare sign-ups were returning customers, while this year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, renewals made up roughly 66 percent of sign-ups.

It's difficult to compare this year's overall open enrollment numbers to last year's, however, since open enrollment started on Nov. 1 as compared to Nov. 15 in 2014. And Burwell writes in the blog post that HHS does not expect to see a "deadline effect" for a few weeks, noting that past enrollment periods have shown that people are deadline-driven.

The Obama administration recently set a modest goal for the latest ACA signup period, saying it hopes to enroll 10 million Americans in plans by the end of next year. That number may reflect the difficulty of reaching the remaining uninsured as well as political considerations, FierceHealthPayer has reported.

Still, Burwell says that the promising enrollment numbers so far are a reflection of coverage shoppers' positive experience on the exchanges. "Consumers are coming to, having a smooth experience and finding plans they can afford. That's the marketplace at work," she writes.

To learn more:
- read the HHS blog post
- here's the CMS snapshot