Returning HealthCare.gov customers have just five days left to renew their health-care plans for coverage on Jan. 1, but only a small fraction of last year’s sign-ups have selected plans so far.
Just over 1.3 million people have selected plans on HealthCare.gov alone so far this enrollment period, with a marked increase in sign-ups during the last week for which the Department of Health and Human Services has numbers.
Of those 1.3 million sign-ups, 52 percent are customers who are renewing coverage, while 48 percent are new customers. If last year’s HealthCare.gov customers still want continuous health insurance through 2015, there are millions more that will need to select plans before Dec. 15.
As of October, 6.7 million people were still enrolled in health coverage through both HealthCare.gov and state-based exchanges, according to HHS. But just around 719,000 returning customers have selected plans on HealthCare.gov so far this year.
While the Obama administration still hasn’t made detailed enrollment reports publicly available for the updated total, as of April 2014, 68 percent of all Obamacare sign-ups used HealthCare.gov. If that proportion has held steady, only around 15 percent of last year’s remaining HealthCare.gov customers have renewed their plans.
Surveys have trudged up conflicting results on returning customers so far. Seven in ten Americans who purchased Obamacare coverage in 2014 rated it as excellent or good, according to a Gallup study; a Bankrate survey from the week before found that 51 percent of 2014 Obamacare sign-ups aren’t planning on buying another plan this time around. (RELATED: Survey: Majority Of Last Year’s Obamacare Customers Won’t Return)
Returning customers still have five days to sign up for a new plan. And if customers don’t actively cancel their plans, the Obama administration will automatically renew their 2014 policies — whether there are premium hikes or not.
HHS has encouraged customers to shop around on HealthCare.gov again this year and top health consulting firms have warned that sticking with the same policies could result in larger rate increases. (RELATED: Flawed Automatic Obamacare Enrollment Plan Likely To Hike Costs)
The Obama administration is so worried about customers remaining inactive and then objecting to potential double-digit hikes — which could cause some to drop out of the exchanges altogether — that it proposed a rule last month which would allow the federal government to choose customers’ plans for them. If passed, HHS will be allowed to automatically switch inactive customers into a lower-premium plan. The plan could cause serious problems for HealthCare.gov customers if the automatic switch affects physician networks, deductibles, drug coverage and more. (RELATED: Obama Admin Wants To Pick Your Obamacare Plan For You)
As with the first open enrollment period, however, the rate of sign-ups is increasing as the deadline grows closer. Between Nov. 29 and Dec. 5, 618,548 people selected plans on HealthCare.gov, the largest coup of any week yet.
The open enrollment period continues through Feb. 15 — but customers who want to avoid the individual mandate tax penalty, which increases to $325 or 2 percent of income for 2015, should have their plans purchased by Dec. 15 so they’re insured in time.