Last year, millions of Americans signed up for coverage through the health insurance exchanges mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but largely did so in the final days before the extended deadline. This year, through early enrollments and automatic re-enrollments, the Healthcare.gov website is doing a much brisker business.
Through Dec. 15, about 6.4 million people have signed up for coverage through the Healthcare.gov federal exchanges, with some 4.5 million of those being existing enrollees, according to a report from the New York Times. The other 1.9 million - about 30 percent of all signups to date - are new customers.
Those people who were signed up by Dec. 15 were assured of having their coverage start on Jan. 1, the report said. And while the Obama administration did not have hard numbers of the number of people whose plans were automatically renewed, it estimates that about 2.7 million to 3 million fall into this category.
Positive numbers continue
Through the first four weeks of the federal exchanges holding open enrollment, running from Nov. 15 to Dec. 12, some 2.5 million people had selected their coverage for the coming year, the report said. But in the next week, another 3.9 million either signed up or were part of that automatic re-enrollment. At this point, the Obama administration is optimistic it will meet meet its goal of 9.1 million people signed up and paying for coverage for the coming year on either the Federal or a state exchange..
Further, the White House notes that about 85 percent of the people who sign up for these plans will be able to receive some sort of subsidy from the federal government to pay for their plans, the report said. However, there may be difficulties in providing the subsidies depending upon a legal case now being weighed by the Supreme Court about the legality of the federal government offering such financial support. While the law was written to provide subsidies for enrollees on state exchanges, the Obama administration has always believed Congress intended for all enrollees to be eligible for subsidies regardless of the member purchasing on a state or federal exchange.
While the future of subsidies may be unclear, private insurance companies offering coverage on the exchanges must still offer coverage under their health plans. Americans are required to have health insurance coverage or potentially pay tax penalties. Therefore, enrollees need to continue to sign up for coverage during the open enrollment period.