More than 8 million enroll in plans, including more young customers

Enrollment on has now reached more than 8.2 million, the federal government announced Tuesday, and perhaps most notably, customers this year are trending younger than in 2014.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Week 7 Open Enrollment Snapshot came on the heels of its announcement that 6 million customers had signed up for health plans before the deadline to have coverage effective Jan. 1. The 8.2 million figure is higher, the agency notes, than the 6.4 million who had signed up for coverage or been automatically renewed by Dec. 19 last year.

By the end of the first enrollment deadline this year, there were about 2.1 million consumers younger than 35, compared to about 1.1 million before the first deadline last year, according to another fact sheet from CMS. There also were more young enrollees who were new to the exchanges this year--41 percent in 2015 compared to 38 percent at the same time last year.  

This could represent a key victory for the Obama administration's outreach efforts to attract what CEO Kevin Counihan has called the "higher-hanging fruit" of consumers who had avoided getting covered for the past two years--presumably those who are younger and healthier. The trend could also be welcome news for health insurers, many of which have been losing money on the exchanges due in part to high claims costs associated with serving older, sicker enrollees than they expected.

Despite those positive trends, though, administration officials acknowledged on a call with reporters Tuesday that it's likely about 2 million individuals had their coverage automatically renewed this year, the Washington Post reports. The government had urged individuals to shop around for better prices on plans in order to mitigate the effects of rising premiums, saying the average consumer could save $400 annually by doing so. The Affordable Care Act exchanges often struggle to keep people in plans when consumers decide after they enroll that they can't afford insurance after all.

"The auto-renewal process is a critical safety net to make sure consumers who are satisfied with their plan can stay covered without disruption, but we encourage all enrolled consumers to revisit the marketplace to make sure they are getting the best price and plan for their situation," the national healthcare enrollment coaltion Enroll America said in a statement emailed to FierceHealthPayer.

To learn more:
- here's the CMS announcement
- check out the open enrollment trends fact sheet

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