HealthCare.gov enrollment surges to nearly 6 million so far

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

HealthCare.gov enrollment surges to nearly 6 million so far.

President Obama announced on Friday that nearly 6 million Americans have enrolled in insurance for 2016 through HealthCare.gov — a big increase over last year that federal officials said is a sign that the Affordable Care Act is succeeding.

WASHINGTON — About 6 million people signed up for health insurance through Thursday on the federal exchange covering 38 states, federal officials announced Friday. And nearly half of the uninsured, 46 percent, say they’ve tried to get health insurance in the past year, but failed to do so because it was too expensive, by far the most common reason given for not obtaining coverage, the Kaiser survey showed. This good news for proponents of the health-care law prompted the Obama administration to catapult it from what are normally routine announcements by federal health officials to the opening statement of a presidential press conference. Preferred Medical Plan filed notice on Wednesday that the private insurance company intends to lay off 162 employees in February, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Those findings underscore what may be the considerable difficulty officials face getting the remaining 10.5 million eligible uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage for next year and future years.

Not only do most uninsured Americans not know when the deadline is, but many may be mistaken in the belief that they can’t afford coverage — apparently, many people with moderate incomes are unaware of available financial aid that can significantly cut the price of their monthly premiums. They granted a 48-hour extension to the original Dec. 15 deadline for obtaining insurance for Jan. 1, saying that about 1 million people were in line to reach federal call centers or to use the enrollment website.

While retaining consumers is important, administration officials need to attract uninsured consumers to meet and hopefully exceed the modest goal they set of 10 million people insured on the exchanges at the end of 2016. But Preferred Medical will cover a much smaller number of Floridians — in large part because of a significant reduction in payments that the company expected to receive under the health law. That surge occurred even though the administration recently tamped down public expectations for how many additional consumers are likely to get ACA insurance for the coming year. Calling it the “the “busiest week we’ve ever seen,” acting Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Andrew Slavitt, said on a press call that “together these numbers tell an important story. Following Wednesday’s release of an appropriations bill that includes a measure to once again restrict payments to insurers in 2016, Rubio issued a press release that read, in part: “ObamaCare’s bailout provision has nothing to do with helping people access health insurance, but it has everything to do with how big businesses in this country game big government to increase their profits, and how big government games big businesses to increase government’s reach into our lives.”

Those who aren’t insured at that point — and aren’t eligible for a hardship exemption — will owe tax penalty in April 2017 that is $695 per person to a maximum of $2,085 per household or 2.5% of income, whichever is higher. Kevin Counihan, CEO of Healthcare.gov, credits the surge with people’s desire to have insurance, but also how affordable they are finding plans if they receive tax credits, which about 80% of people do. HHS officials have been cautioning consumers not to wait for this automatic enrollment, saying they could face spikes in insurance rates unless they shop around for the best available health plan.

Burwell and other officials have repeatedly talked about the availability of federal tax credits, or subsidies, that would allow more than 7 out of every 10 current Obamacare customers to buy health plans with premiums of $75 or less per month after that aid is factored in. Those subsidies are available to people whose adjusted gross household income is between one and four times the federal poverty level, or between $11,770 and about $47,000 for single people, or $24,250 and $97,000 for a family of four. Broyles, the Tennessee insurance broker, said that while all of his customers — many of whom operate small businesses — know the subsidies exist, “they are just under the impression that, for some reason, they won’t qualify.” When he tells those people they’re eligible for the subsidies, and how much they are worth, Broyles said they look at him “like I just told them they could fly, the sound of disbelief.” Broyles said “I probably am surprised” about how many subsidy-eligible people aren’t aware they qualify. And despite what for many of those people is the perceived “stigma” of enrolling in Obamacare and the belief they’ll be looked at differently by their doctors and billing clerks, all of the customers eligible for subsidies end up enrolling, he said.

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