US

Obamacare Sign-Ups Stall In Week Two

The number of Americans signing up for Obamacare coverage on HealthCare.gov slowed significantly in the second week of the open enrollment season for the health-care law.

Just over 303,000 people chose plans on HealthCare.gov between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28, down from 462,125 who selected insurance coverage on the federal website during its first week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

In all, 765,135 people have selected plans so far; about 48 percent of those are new customers, while 52 percent are returning to renew or change plans they purchased on HealthCare.gov last year.

The number of total applications submitted dropped by half in comparison to the first week. While over one million applications were submitted during the first week, that total fell to just 520,427 in the next seven days.

Interest in window shopping on both HealthCare.gov and the Spanish-language version of the website, CuidadoDeSalud.gov also fell.

During the 2013 open enrollment season, sign-ups were incredibly low at the beginning and interest surged in the month before the deadline — although part of the initial lack of interest was due to HealthCare.gov’s tech failure.

But in order to purchase coverage effective on Jan. 1, when customers will need to have health insurance or face a $325 tax for going uninsured, customers will need to purchase plans by Dec. 15.

“We’re encouraging everyone who is already covered through the Marketplace to come back and shop because there could be savings,” HHS secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “And for those who are thinking about getting health coverage, take a look at your options — most consumers qualify for financial help.”

The administration is continuing to advertise premium  subsidies to customers in the 37 states that have the federal government operate their Obamacare exchanges through HealthCare.gov, although the Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case challenging the legality of the subsidies next term.

The Affordable Care Act itself restricts premium subsidies to exchanges “established by the state.” The Supreme Court will issue a ruling in June determining whether an IRS regulation dictating that the subsidies be available to HealthCare.gov customers violates Obamacare’s text or not. Burwell is bullish about the administration’s chances. (RELATED: Supreme Court Takes Up Potentially Disastrous Obamacare Case)¬†¬†

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