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With Florida leading the Way, Obamacare Enrollment Jumps Despite Trump Threats

| December 22, 2016

obamacare demise

News of Obamacare’s demise is premature. (White House)

Despite the Affordable Care Act’s rising prices, decreased insurer participation and a vigorous political threat to its survival, consumer enrollment for 2017 is outpacing last year’s, according to new federal data and reports from state officials around the country.


Americans’ anxiety about how a new Republican-controlled Congress and President-elect Donald Trump will repeal and replace the health law is helping fuel early enrollment gains in the online marketplaces that sell individual coverage, state exchange officials and health consultants said.

Healthcare.gov, the federal marketplace which handles coverage for 39 states, enrolled 6.4 million people from Nov. 1 through Monday, about 400,000 more than at the same time a year ago, the Health and Human Services Department said Wednesday. Monday was the deadline in those states to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1, but open enrollment will continue until Jan. 31 for 2017 coverage.

Florida led the way with sign-ups through Monday, recording 1.3 million selections. Texas was second, with 776,000, followed by North Caroliona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

“The marketplace is strong … and now we know the doomsday predictions about the marketplace are not coming true,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a press briefing.

The surge in sign-ups on the federal marketplace mirrors activity on several state-run Obamacare exchanges, according to figures obtained from states independently by Kaiser Health News. Minnesota, with more than 54,000 enrollees as of Monday, doubled the number of sign-ups it had at the same time last year. Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington had enrollment growth of at least 13 percent compared to a year ago.

“Because of the new administration and the high likelihood of changes coming to the ACA, it is creating a sense of urgency” for people to enroll, said Michael Marchand, director of communications for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Enrollment exceeded 170,000 customers on the Washington exchange as of this week, up 13 percent compared to same time a year ago.

Other state exchanges saw moderate increases: Connecticut, 3 percent; Idaho, 4 percent; Maryland, 1 percent. California’s enrollment is about same as a year ago. Rhode Island’s enrollment dropped to 27,555 from 31,900 for the same period last year. State exchange officials cited a drop in customers who were automatically renewed because UnitedHealthcare dropped out.

About 12.7 million people enrolled in the state and federal exchanges for 2016 coverage at the end of the previous enrollment season. HHS predicted in October that an additional 1.1 million people would sign up for 2017 coverage. Burwell said Wednesday that her department is sticking with that projection, even though “the headwinds have increased” since the election.

Obamacare, now in its fourth open enrollment season, took some heavy blows this year after several big insurers — including UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Aetna — withdrew from many marketplaces for 2017 because of heavy financial losses. At the same time, remaining insurers increased premiums by 25 percent on average.

All of that, plus a changed political climate in Washington, was expected to dampen enrollment. While the surprise presidential election outcome may have been the primary force for changing those expectations, other factors also have fueled enrollment growth this fall, state officials pointed out in interviews.

More people who don’t qualify for government subsidies are buying health plans on the exchanges because it’s an easier way to compare available plans in one place. Noting that trend, Premera Blue Cross in Washington recently stopped selling individual coverage off the exchange.

In Minnesota, higher government subsidies — which reduce premiums for people with lower incomes — is the main reason why more people have signed up, according to Allison O’Toole, CEO of MNsure, the state-run exchange. The subsidy amount is tied to the cost of the second-lowest silver plan on the exchange, so as premiums rise for that plan, the subsidy rises too. Premiums soared by an average 50 percent in Minnesota for second-lowest silver.

Another factor driving earlier enrollment in that state was caps set by several Minnesota insurers on the number of new enrollees they would accept. People signed up earlier to make sure they could get the plan they wanted, according to O’Toole.

Minnesota’s growth is surprising because one of its biggest carriers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, stopped selling its most popular health plan on the exchange. That forced about 20,000 people to change insurers or switch from Blue Cross’ PPO, which has a broad provider network, to its HMO plan with a narrower network.

In Colorado, the 18 percent increase in enrollment so far has exceeded officials’ expectations, said Luke Clarke, the spokesman for Connect for Health Colorado, the state exchange. “We had an office pool and no one picked a number that high,” he said. “It was a healthy surprise,” particularly because premiums increased in the state by about 20 percent on average.

Conservatives warn it’s still too early for Obamacare supporters to celebrate.

“I suspect that some states saw big increases because local advocacy groups were able to tell their constituents that they should enroll before Trump is sworn in and Republicans take over Congress — thereby pretty much guaranteeing that they get a full year’s coverage regardless of what Republicans might do on repeal,” said Joe Antos, a health economist with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Under that scenario, large enrollment increases this fall might be followed by a dropoff in January over the 2016 numbers and the final enrollment tally could end up similar this year’s, he said. Antos noted the true enrollment figures will be known once people pay for their coverage and stay enrolled for the full year.

“As with everything related to ACA,” Antos said, “it’s easy to find a happy story if you squint hard enough and don’t wait for the enrollment process to complete — or the plan year to end.”

–Phil Galewitz , Kaiser Health News, and FlaglerLive

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15 Responses for “With Florida leading the Way, Obamacare Enrollment Jumps Despite Trump Threats”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Still not enough my insurance went up $361 per month.I can’t wait until Trump gets in to repeal this mess

  2. Sherry says:

    LOL! LOL! LOL! I can just see all the insurance companies LOWERING their premiums. . . LOL! LOL! Good Luck with that!!!

    Remember, the reason insurance premiums in Florida have risen so much has NOTHING to do with Obama Care. It’s because our horrific governor took the power to negotiate rates away from the “Insurance Commissioner”. . . Scott did that years ago as a poison pill to Obama Care! Annnnndddd, guess who is now paying the price! Take a look: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/aug/08/ted-deutch/florida-democrats-say-gov-rick-scott-and-legislatu/

  3. Common Sense says:

    A few facts:

    Before the AHCA you either had insurance or you didn’t. If you didn’t it was because either because you couldn’t afford it or you had a pre existing condition. Even if you had insurance through an employer your rates regularly went up and your coverage got cut back because the employer wanted to cut costs. If you wanted to improve your coverage, you had to pay more.

    After the AHCA was enacted, millions of Americans who previously could not afford insurance were able to do so. The pre existing condition was no longer a barrier. Like everyone else, the rates through the AHCA go up every year. If you think those premiums go up a lot, try having private health insurance without the AHCA. The costs are astronomical and you can’t afford it unless you are a millionaire.

    So…..
    All health insurance premiums go up, usually every year.

    The penalties are designed so that those who don’t want to pay for it, they rather spend their money on other things, cell phones, new cars, etc., then get sick, won’t have to be taken care on our tax dollars.

    Yes, the AHCA is flawed.
    If instead of trying to repeal the AHCA, countless times, Republicans would have worked with Democrats and corrected the flaws in the AHCA, we would all be better off now. But rather than work for the benefit of all Americans, they wanted to pander to the Obama haters, so nothing got fixed.

    The fact is that in the years since the AHCA was enacted the Republicans haven’t been able to come up with an alternative plan…not one.

    And lastly, the fact is that Trump doesn’t have a plan either.

    So be careful what you wish for Anonymous.

  4. Outsider says:

    Ah yes, the only measure of success is how many people sign up. What about how many actually make their first premium payment, or how much the cost of the program is going up? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not under budget.

  5. Knightwatch says:

    Anonymous, that’s GD nonsense and more conservative BS. If your insurance went up $361 per month, and I seriously don’t believe that, it has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. That’s between you and your insurer. The ACA doesn’t dictate how much to charge you even if you got the insurance through an exchange. The private insurance companies participating in the ACA exchanges set their own prices in order to be able to offer more affordable plans in a competitive marketplace.The ACA doesn’t control the health care market.

    Do you get it? Am I going too fast for you? You are free to shop for cheaper insurance anytime and anywhere you choose. You and your conservative demagogues repeat a false mantra mindlessly because you hate the black guy in the White House… nothing more, nothing less.

    Oh, there are around 26 million Americans enrolled in the ACA. Are you proposing that that buffoon you elected is going to throw them all out of health insurance? Would that make you happy? You know, kicking out women, children and the elderly? They make up the preponderance of ACA enrollees.

    BTW, the ACA does offer subsidies to those who can’t afford insurance premiums. Perhaps you should apply.

    Conservatives make me seriously ill. Now I have a headache. Thanks, Anonymous.

  6. Fredrick says:

    Premiums for Obama care are going up??? That’s not possible is it? This was supposed to be saving everyone money. I am confused. Can someone please explain why we were told something different?

  7. Fred says:

    Almost there…….

    Uninstalling Obama…

    █████████████████████████████████░

    98% complete

  8. Pete says:

    Prior to Obamacare we had private insurance that suited our needs. Obamacare caused the cancellation of our insurance plan, increased our rates $800 a month, increased our deductible from $5,000 to $13,000, and made it economically impossible to offer our employees insurance reimbursement plans (ie – insurance).

    And our participation in Obamacare is touted as part of its success. What a joke!

  9. Sherry says:

    AGAIN. . . the ACA does NOT control the premiums charged by the PRIVATE “capitalistic”/”for maximum profit” insurance companies!!!! Each STATE does. Do you get that??? The rates have gone DOWN for many, and those who could NOT get insurance for any price, now can!

    AGAIN. . . The Republican legislature and governor in the state of Florida STOPPED the insurance commissioner from negotiating those health insurance premiums by taking those powers away. Please put on your glasses and “thinking caps” and educate yourselves on the actual facts. . . come on, you can do it. . . read and absorb this : http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/aug/08/ted-deutch/florida-democrats-say-gov-rick-scott-and-legislatu/

  10. RayD says:

    Well, Frederick it is possibly one of if not the primary reason why Hillary lost. People are still signing up due to the stick (the penalties). There is no carrot unless one views $300 premiums and $7000 deductibles+$6000 out of pockets as a carrot. What we now have is very expensive major medical with no lifetime limits and no pre-existing limits. Is it better? The stick is now certain to go away. As for the rest, it will be different.

  11. Common Sense says:

    Frederick:

    No, no one promised it would save you money. What it does is give you access to insurance which you couldn’t get before. Did you ever read the AHCA? Please show me the actual wording where it says it would save you money? Perhaps it is in the same paragraph where it explains the “death panels”?

  12. Katie Semore says:

    Pete, if the facts you stated are true, it is obvious you had a shitty policy with high deductible and limited in coverage. Maybe you were lucky and stayed well.

  13. Anonymous says:

    THE AHCA IS NOT WORKING. Period!!!!!!!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Common Sense says:

    December 23, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Frederick:

    No, no one promised it would save you money.

    Ummm YES someone did promise the cost would go down some $2500 per family along with saying if you like your plane you can keep your plan if you like your doctor you can keep him also!!!

  15. Sherry says:

    And . . . WHERE is the brilliant idea of cheaper and better health care for ALL . . . from the Republicans??????? AND, how are they going to pay for it? Better watch that deficit!!!

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