Friday (Dec. 15) is the end of this year’s open enrollment at HealthCare.gov, and the latest tally shows that 4.7 million people have so far signed up for Obamacare health insurance policies. In 2016, a total of 9.2 million enrolled, but that sign-up period stretched into January of this year.
Of the 4,678,361 million who had signed up as of Saturday, Dec. 9, 1.4 million were new customers and 3.3 million returning customers.
Larry Leavitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks all issues health care in America, says enrollment is surging but will probably fall short of last year’s total, which he pins on “a shorter enrollment period.”
HealthCare.gov covers 39 states. The state-run exchanges, in some cases, have longer enrollment periods.
Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina this week sent a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) saying a one-week extension until Dec. 22 would benefit people around the country. His state has the third highest enrollment number on the federal exchange.
According to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) and its individual mandate, all citizens must have qualifying health insurance from any source (employer, family, private) or pay a fine to the IRS. The fine for 2018 is $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.
However, the Trump administration and Congress are poised to do away with the individual mandate by including its elimination in the tax reform package now being reconciled between House and Senate conferees.
Enrollment Figures Somewhat Deceptive
As the New York Times reported this week, “hundreds of thousands” of people with expiring Obamacare policies — those whose insurers have left the marketplace — are being automatically re-enrolled, even though they never signed up for a 2018 policy.
One couple in Virginia, in an example cited by the newspaper, received this notice in the mail: “We have received your application for individual and family coverage effective 1/1/2018.” They had never signed up this year but are currently covered by an insurer (Anthem) that has left the federal exchange. Thus they were subject to “automatic re-enrollment,” as the government calls it.
The price for their new policy is an eye-opener — $3,483 a month for the family of three, more than triple their existing premium.
Meanwhile, the program’s namesake, former President Barack Obama, on Monday held a conference call to counselors, religious leaders and volunteers to make a final push to get people covered.