HHS touts ACA enrollment progress with law at 'strongest point' in its history

The Biden administration touted the Affordable Care Act as being at its “strongest point” in its history with 14.5 million people signing up in the latest open enrollment. 

But the administration is hoping Congress can continue to keep a key driver of that enrollment—enhanced income-based subsidies—from expiring after this year. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new report Wednesday detailing the 2022 ACA open enrollment on the 12th anniversary of former President Barack Obama signing it into law. The report showed that during the first full year of the Biden administration, nearly 6 million new customers signed up for coverage as part of a special enrollment period that ended last August and the open enrollment period that ended earlier this year. 

Overall, 14.5 million people signed up nationwide for coverage, a 21% increase from the year before. 

In addition, 2.8 million more people have income-based tax credits in 2022 compared to 2021. 

“The ACA is at its strongest point ever,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure told reporters in a recent call.

She touted new outreach efforts for the latest open enrollment period that include advertising for the first time in several new languages and specific campaigns for Black and Hispanic communities. This led to an enrollment increase of 26% for Hispanics and 35% for Black Americans compared to the year before. 

HHS’ enrollment report showed that the average monthly premium for all sign-ups on HealthCare.gov fell by 22% from $143 last year to $111 in 2022. 

“The expansion in financial assistance for consumers resulted in a 3% increase of the average monthly [advance placement tax credit] amount for HealthCare.gov enrollees, from $509 in 2021 to $524 in 2022,” the report said. 

The percentage of ACA exchange consumers that get cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) also increased slightly from 47% in 2021 to 49% in 2022. CSRs are a discount to out-of-pocket cost-sharing such as deductibles for low-income customers. 

But the enhanced subsidies, which can lower costs to $10 a month or lower for some consumers, are scheduled to expire after this coverage year.

Brooks-LaSure told reporters that she was confident Congress would pass legislation to extend the boosted subsidies past this year. 

However, the Build Back Better Act that extended the subsidies through 2025 has stalled in the Senate with little hope of being resurrected. It remains unclear what parts of the massive $1.75 trillion social spending package could be revived. 

Brooks-LaSure said that the agency will “pivot quickly” if Congress does not extend the subsidies. 

“If we start open enrollment and the subsidies were not extended then we would be ready to implement that change in policy and we would change our outreach plans if we needed to,” she said on a call with reporters. “Just like the ACA, we are confident Congress will address these critical needs for the American people.”