More than 8.5 million people have signed up for individual health plans through Obamacare’s government-run shopping market this year or had their coverage renewed, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The report tallies enrollees for 2016 coverage through Dec. 26 in 38 states that use the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. There was a Dec. 17 deadline for people to choose coverage that begins Jan. 1. About 8.3 million people had signed up through Dec. 19.
Healthcare industries such as hospitals and health insurers as well as investors are watching the enrollment numbers closely to determine what they might expect in terms of future business. And sign-ups this year are particularly important for determining whether Obamacare is thriving in the lead-up to an election year.
The U.S. has estimated that about 9.9 million people will be enrolled in Obamacare plans by the end of 2016, compared with a projected 9.1 million at the close of 2015. Last year’s sign- up period began two weeks later, and an additional state, Hawaii, is using the federal exchange this year.
About 71 percent of people who signed up were renewing coverage and 60 percent returned to healthcare.gov to update their information, check out their options or select a new plan, CMS said. The compares to less than 15 percent of enrollees in Medicare’s prescription drug plan who change their coverage any given year. People who shop around in the Obamacare market to find a plan with the same coverage level could save more than $600 a year, according to CMS.
People can still sign up for coverage that begins later in the year, and the data don’t include enrollment from states like New York and California, which run their own health-insurance marketplaces. Jan. 15 is the last day to enroll or change plans for coverage starting Feb. 1, and Jan. 31 is the last day for coverage starting March 1.
–With assistance from Zachary Tracer.