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Affordable Care Act enrollment surges in final week

Declining consumer numbers and a ruling in Texas striking down the ACA threatened a relatively stable market this year.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

The final week of open enrollment saw a surge in the number of people signing up for Affordable Care Act plans, overtaking figures from last year.

For week 7, Dec. 9-15, 4.3 million people selected plans, compared to 4.1 million during the same week the year prior.

Since open enrollment began on November 1, the numbers have lagged each week. Enrollment remains about 400,000 short of last year's figures. Cumulative totals are 8.45 million this year compared to 8.82 million last year.

The final numbers will rise as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is allowing those consumers who called Healthcare.gov and left a message to sign up after the enrollment deadline of Saturday, December 15.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Declining consumer numbers and a ruling in Texas on Friday striking down the Affordable Care Act have threatened to destabilize what has been a relatively stable ACA market this year.

Consumers who signed up for 2019 plans will not be affected by the Texas ruling, CMS Administrator Seema Verma has assured over twitter.

The ACA remains in place as the case plays out in the appeals court, and possibly the Supreme Court.

THE TREND

Similar to previous years, there was a surge in the number of consumers contacting the exchange call center and visiting Healthcare.gov during the final days of open enrollment, CMS said.

But, for a second year, a waiting room did not need to be deployed online and there was only one unplanned downtime, which lasted less than an hour.

Consumers this year were attracted to the lower premiums in the market, though many consumers who don't qualify for subsidies still remain priced out, Verma said.

Reasons for the drop in ACA enrollment include employment increasing by two million in states that use the Healthcare.gov platform, CMS said. Nationally, 90 percent of U.S. workers are employed by a firm that offers health benefits to at least some of its workers.

In addition, due to the expansion of the state's Medicaid population, CMS estimates that approximately 100,000 current exchange enrollees in Virginia will be eligible for expanded Medicaid.

ON THE RECORD

"This Administration has taken strong steps to promote a more competitive, stable health insurance market and these steady enrollment numbers are yet another sign that the Administration's efforts are working," Verma said. "With the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, it's possible that more Americans have employer based coverage, and don't need exchange plans.

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