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As ACA deadline draws near, enrollment outpaces last year

Going into the final days of open enrollment, more than 4 million people have selected plans, but CMS says many will fail to keep their coverage.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

As open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act gets down to the December 15 wire, the number of people signing up for health coverage is more than keeping pace with last year.

During the sixth week of open enrollment, in fact, more than 1 million people selected plans through Healthcare.gov. Of these, 388,984 were new consumers and another 684,937 were renewing coverage.

[Also: ACA enrollment surges by more than 800,000 as final two weeks begin]

Since November 1 when open enrollment began 4.67 million people have signed up for ACA health plans compared to the 4 million people who had enrolled by December 10 of 2016.

But the number of people selecting plans year-to-year has kept pace as consumers face a shortened enrollment period this year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the number of those paying for their coverage falls short when compared to last year.

[Also: ACA open enrollment continues to outpace last year]

Through the first half of the year ending June 2017, an average of 10.1 million consumers had selected a plan and paid the premium. This is about 200,000 fewer people compared to those who had effectuated their coverage in 2016, CMS said.

Also, a significant number of people do not stay with their plans for the full year, CMS said. By June, 9.9 million consumers remained in their coverage compared to the 12.2 million who selected plans.

[Also: ACA enrollment numbers swell as another 500,000 choose coverage in week 4]

On average since 2014, more than a million enrollees per year have dropped their coverage before the end of the year, CMS said.

The financial assistance for enrollees has risen, as the average amount of advance premium tax credit per individual has increased  by close to 29 percent when compared to 2016. CMS said this shows that those who remain covered are likely to have received premium tax credit assistance.

CMS under the Trump administration has shortened the ACA enrollment period, cut 90 percent of its marketing and promotional efforts, and reduced funding for navigator organizations that provide assistance to enroll in plans.

Proposed House and Senate bills undo the individual mandate that requires consumers to get health insurance or face a tax penalty. Insurers have said this destabilizes the ACA market, as only those individuals who need insurance due to a chronic illness or another health issue will keep their coverage, leading to rising premiums.

Insurers raised premiums for 2018 due to the loss of cost-sharing reduction payments, which help offset deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for lower-income consumers.

A proposed GOP bill that would delay the health insurance tax, which adds approximately 3 percent to the price of premiums, may help insurers next year.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com

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