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Final days of ACA open enrollment show 10% drop in signups

Open enrollment is ongoing as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to soon rule whether the ACA is constitutional.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans is down 10% over last year's signups, based on numbers released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for Week 5.

ACA enrollment ends in less than a week on December 15.

In total, 2,876,998 people have signed up for 2020 coverage in plans on Healthcare.gov, compared to 3,198163 who enrolled during Week 5 in 2018, a 10% drop.

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Numbers for both new and renewing consumers are lower this year than last.

WHY THIS MATTERS

CMS has yet to comment on the lower enrollment numbers, other than to release the caveat that the figures reflect one day less to enroll this year compared to last because figures are measured Sunday to Saturday.

There are a number of factors that may be contributing to the decrease: higher employment numbers, more states adopting Medicaid expansion, lack of an individual mandate and reportedly, technical issues with the Healthcare.gov site early in the enrollment season which prompted Democratic leaders to send a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar urging him to get the site fully functional.

CMS has decreased funding for advertising, marketing and Navigator support for consumers, but this drop has existed for at least two enrollment seasons.

The market has stabilized over the past two years. Insurers have jumped back into the market and consumers have seen lower premiums or premium increases.

How or if this year's lower numbers will affect insurer participation for future years is not known.

While enrollment is down 10%, it's an increase over the 20% drop in signups during the first two weeks of open enrollment that started on November 1.

THE LARGER TREND

Open enrollment is ongoing as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hand up at any time a ruling on whether President Obama's signature healthcare law is constitutional, now that the individual mandate is gone.

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