Healthcare.gov enrollment surges around first deadline

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The high demand for ACA plans, the HHS secretary says, prove that “doomsday predictions about the marketplace are not coming true."

Enrollment in Affordable Care Act marketplace plans has outpaced last year’s tally thanks to a surge around the deadline to enroll in coverage effective Jan. 1.

From Nov. 1 through the extended deadline of Dec. 19, 6.4 million consumers signed up for plans through Healthcare.gov, an increase of 400,000 plan selections compared with the same time last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Wednesday.

The agency extended the signup deadline because the original deadline for Jan. 1 coverage, Dec. 15, saw 670,000 plan selections. That made it “the biggest day of any open enrollment ever,” CMS says, breaking the previous year’s Dec. 15 record of 600,000 signups.

The most recent enrollment figures include 2.05 million new consumers and 4.31 million returning consumers actively renewing their coverage, CMS says. Not included in the overall tally are those who had their coverage automatically renewed or those who selected plans on state-based marketplaces; federal officials typically release the latter figures later in the open enrollment period.

That high demand for marketplace plans, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said during a press briefing, prove that “doomsday predictions about the marketplace are not coming true,” Kaiser Health News reports.

Shrinking insurer participation on the exchanges and the average cost of a benchmark silver plan rising by double digits this year had indeed led some to worry about how consumers would react.

Yet another cause for concern—surrounding what will happen to the ACA once President-elect Donald Trump takes office—could actually be fueling a “sense of urgency” among enrollees, Michael Marchand, director of communications for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, told KHN.

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Republicans, though, do not appear to be re-evaluating their goal of repealing and replacing the healthcare reform legislation.

“This disaster of a law has led to massive premium spikes, less choice for patients and a collapse of the exchange markets, and no amount of spinning from the White House can hide this ugly reality,” said a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, according to The New York Times.