Open enrollment sign-ups total 12.7 million

Affordable Care Act marketplace sign-ups for 2016 totaled about 12.7 million people, the federal government announced Thursday, including 9.6 million who enrolled through Healthcare.gov and 3.1 million through state exchanges.

The overall figure exceeds last year's open enrollment total of 11.7 million. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had set a modest goal of having 10 million enrolled in coverage by the end of 2016.

Perhaps most promising, according to HHS, is the fact that about 4 million, or 42 percent, of Healthcare.gov enrollees are new consumers.

"The Marketplace is growing and getting stronger and the ACA has become a crucial part of healthcare in America," HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in the announcement.

About 3.9 million of the 9.6 million Healthcare.gov enrollees were returning consumers who "actively selected a plan," while 1.7 million had their coverage automatically renewed. HHS has urged consumers to shop around for better coverage this year, pointing out that reviewing plan selections can save them money.

It's "especially encouraging" that 70 percent of those who re-enrolled in coverage actively selected their plans, as that represents "a significant uptick from the last open enrollment period" Anne Filipic, president of outreach organization Enroll America said in a statement.

Even with these promising results, however, there are signs that challenges remain for the ACA exchanges. In fact, several major insurers including UnitedHealth and Anthem said they are experiencing considerable financial losses on their individual plans, raising questions about marketplace sustainability.

"While exchange enrollment will meet the administration's modest 10 million person goal, it does appear that growth in this market has slowed," Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere, said in an analysis from the consulting firm that estimates year-end enrollment will be 10.2 million. "Efforts to expand participation in the long term will be important to sustain robust plan participation and support continued improvement in the risk pool."

To learn more:
- read the HHS announcement
- here's the Enroll America statement
- check out Avalere's analysis

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