Americans are flocking to the Affordable Care Act exchanges to sign up for coverage for 2022.
The interest, which comes after a record number of people enrolled in 2021 Obamacare policies, is being spurred by the generous subsidies enacted earlier this year as part of the American Rescue Plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday.
The Biden administration and congressional Democrats are hoping to extend the hefty premium assistance through 2025 as part of their sweeping $1.9 trillion spending plan now in the Senate, where it faces a tough road.
Plan selections in the 33 states that use the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, are up 5% from an essentially comparable period last year, the agency said. The data is for the first five weeks of open enrollment, which began November 1 and runs through January 15, a month longer than under the Trump administration.
In the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid to low-income adults, sign ups have increased 9%. Plan selections are up 20% in Texas and 9% in Florida, the two largest markets on the federal exchange.
Several states that run their own exchanges are also seeing brisk business. Plan selections in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont have jumped more than 15% from last year, the agency said. These figures are for the first four weeks of open enrollment, which included one additional day last year.
Three states – Kentucky, Maine and New Mexico – set up their own marketplaces for 2022, instead of using Healthcare.gov to enroll residents.
Nearly 4.6 million people have signed up for 2022 health coverage on the federal and state-based exchanges so far. A comparable figure for last year is not available because this is the first time the agency is releasing state marketplace data during the initial weeks of open enrollment.
“Thanks to our unprecedented outreach campaigns and investments from the American Rescue Plan, millions of people across the nation are gaining health insurance with lower premiums and more choices than ever,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Some 95% of consumers signing up on the federal exchange for 2022 policies are getting subsidies to lower their monthly premiums. The number of customers obtaining coverage for $10 or less a month, after assistance, has nearly doubled compared to the same period last year.
The Democrats are heavily pushing the temporary premium aid that was enacted as part of the party’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which President Joe Biden signed in March. It made changes to the subsidies to address long-standing complaints that Obamacare plans are not affordable for many people, particularly the middle class.
For this year and next, enrollees pay no more than 8.5% of their income toward coverage, down from nearly 10%. And lower-income policyholders receive subsidies that eliminate their premiums.
Also, those earning more than 400% of the federal poverty level – about $51,000 for an individual and $104,800 for a family of four in 2021 – are now eligible for help for the first time.
The Biden administration has launched an extensive outreach and marketing campaign to let Americans know about the enhanced assistance. It is working with local groups and targeting communities with traditionally high uninsured rates, as well as advertising across digital and television channels. It has added marketing in six additional languages. And it has quadrupled the number of navigators to help people enroll in coverage – a program the Trump administration slashed.
Record enrollment for 2021
Enrollment hit a record of more than 12 million consumers for 2021, driven by the more than 2.8 million people who signed up during the special enrollment period that Biden launched earlier this year.
Americans who want coverage to begin on January 1 must select a policy by December 15.
Consumers are not considered enrolled in policies until they pay their first month’s premium.