New ACA enrollment season is off to brisk start, figures show

The Affordable Care Act's fifth enrollment season had a brisk start, as seen in government numbers released Thursday. MUST CREDIT

The Trump administration may have significantly reduced outreach efforts and funding – and the headlines have certainly caused confusion for consumers – but enrollment numbers for the first week of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act are in and they’re record-breaking.

Over 600,000 consumers have signed up for plans on the law's exchanges during the first week of enrollment, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. On average, roughly 150,000 people have signed up each day during the first week of enrollment, compared to 84,000 on average last year. More than 9 million people in total signed up for health coverage on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges last year.

“It’s by far the biggest start to open enrollment than ever before,” said Lori Lodes, co-founder of Get America Covered, an outreach program aimed at getting the word out that people can still enroll, despite cuts and confusion over the law's future.

“There’s still a big question as to what’s happening now, what will happen next week, and can we continue to raise awareness so people know to take action before Dec. 15.”

Health care advocates expressed concerns about enrollment numbers prior to the start date on Nov. 1. Health and Human Services slashed advertising and outreach dollars by 90 percent, shortened the enrollment period and introduced website outages from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. each Sunday during enrollment.

Up on Capitol Hill, there have been debates over repealing and replacing Obamacare and stabilizing the individual markets. And at the White House, Trump stopped funding cost-sharing subsidies and has declared Obamacare “dead.”

The news headlines about health care have been dizzying, resulting in confusion about coverage for the next year, experts say.

But it also may have galvanized more people to learn about their current health care coverage. Exit polls during Tuesday’s election named health care the number one issue of voter concern.


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