Week 1 ACA exchange enrollment sluggish, but analysts aren’t worried

Just over 370,000 people signed up for plans on Healthcare.gov during the first week of open enrollment, which began on Nov. 1.

That’s down from the 601,462 that enrolled during the first week in 2017’s open enrollment period. Last year’s first-week snapshot—which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) measures from Sunday through Saturday—was slightly longer, accounting for four days. This year’s first week included three days.

More than 89,000 new consumers signed up this year, while 282,394 were renewing coverage, according to CMS. The site saw more than 1.5 million visitors.

More than 800,000 people submitted applications for coverage but are awaiting an eligibility determination in order to select a plan.

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But industry analysts don’t appear concerned about the lower first-week enrollment numbers. In a research note, Leerink analysts said they expect overall exchange enrollment to see “flattish growth” totaling 11 million to 12 million members, though some will be siphoned off the market to short-term plans.

Analysts Ana Gupte, Ph.D., and John Sourbeer, said Centene and Molina have the most exposure to lower enrollment numbers, but expect both companies could see double-digit growth “at flattish margins" as enrollment picks up.

“The analysis keeps us cautiously optimistic that exchanges will support other business segments on growth and margins for these companies without dominating the fundamental performance in 2019,” they wrote.