Lower premiums and additional choices have yet to draw more people to Obamacare for 2020 as open enrollment begins.
Sign-ups have slid, with only 932,000 people selecting 2020 plans on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, in the first nine days of open enrollment, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
That’s down about 12% on an average daily basis from a year ago.
Obamacare, now in its seventh open enrollment period, is on stronger footing for 2020, with average premiums for the benchmark plan dropping 4% and 20 more insurers offering policies. Yet it remains fragile, with the Trump administration seeking to kill it in court and continuing to provide little funding for advertising and enrollment assistance.
Much of the decline in 2020 plan sign-ups so far comes from fewer folks renewing their coverage. Enrollees will be automatically renewed after open enrollment ends if they don’t actively select plans. Experts, however, stress that rates and premium subsidies can change every year so it’s important to visit the exchange and check pricing.
Also, healthcare.gov experienced technical issues when enrollment opened on November 1, which blocked an estimated 100,000 people from signing up that day, according to Josh Peck, co-founder of Get America Covered, which seeks to boost Affordable Care Act enrollment, and a former Obama administration official. Those problems were addressed and operations have been normal since then, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
One bright spot for Obamacare is that the number of new consumers selecting plans is holding relatively steady. Much of the decline in enrollment in recent years has come from this category. It’s typically more difficult to get people to sign up for the first time.
“One week of this isn’t a big flag for me,” Peck said, noting that this year’s report included one fewer weekday, which is usually when people select coverage.
Some states that run their own exchanges are seeing better results. Sign-ups have outpaced last year’s levels, on an average daily basis, in Minnesota, and nearly 50% more new consumers have signed up.
“We are excited to see a steady stream of new consumers during the first 10 days of open enrollment,” said Nate Clark, chief executive of MNsure, the state’s marketplace.
Open enrollment ends December 15 for the federal exchange, which covers 38 states. Some states that run their own marketplaces have extended that deadline.