HealthCare.gov sign-ups jumped during the last week to sign-up for Jan. 1 coverage as the administration’s automatic sign-up policy kicked in, according to the Obama administration.
Over 3.9 million people selected plans on HealthCare.gov between Dec. 13 and Dec. 19, the last several days that customers could sign up for Obamacare coverage to take effect on the first of the year, the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday. That more than doubled the number of total sign-ups on the federal exchange, bringing the grand total to just under 6.4 million.
The boost is unsurprising: for the first time, the numbers include autoenrollment. In a press conference Tuesday, HHS secretary Sylvia Burwell said about two-thirds of the returning customers’ sign-ups were autoenrolled. Somewhere around the “mid-to-high 30’s” went back to HealthCare.gov to select a plan — around 1.5 million customers actively returning compared out of 5.4 million who signed up on the federal exchange last year. (RELATED: Obamacare Enrollment Is Up But Returning Customers Are Shying Away)
That’s mostly returning customers who first signed up for Obamacare last year — and for the first time, that includes autoenrollment. The administration’s policy is to automatically sign last year’s customers up for their insurance plan again if they fail to do so themselves, vastly upping the enrollment total.
That policy may boost numbers, but it has its flaws. Because existing plans are increasing their premiums at a faster rate compared to new entries to Obamacare exchanges that are offering lower prices to attract customers, customers that the administration shunts into the same policy for another year are in for bigger price hikes than expected. (RELATED: Flawed Obamacare Enrollment Plan To Hike Costs)
That has led the administration to consider a new policy which would allow HHS to pick customers’ plans for them. That may take effect in future years, but the administration is currently expecting customers to see their new premiums in January and either change or cancel their coverage before the open enrollment period ends Feb. 15. (RELATED: Obama Admin Wants To Pick Your Plan For You)
But right now, enrollment is fairly high — much higher than last year. But consulting firm Avalere Health projects that the administration won’t meet the Congressional Budget Office’s 13 million-strong target for year-two Obamacare enrollment.
Avalere projects that state and federal exchanges will reach 10.5 million paying customers this year, which would beat a lowered estimate from HHS. The administration backed off its own projections for total sign-ups in November, likely attempting to lower expectations for Obamacare this time around.