While political speculation rages about what may happen if the Affordable Care Act is repealed or major aspects of Obamacare overhauled, consumers keep signing up online for benefits. But in the early going not as many consumers as last year.
In its first release of Healthcare.gov statistics for the current enrollment period, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports that 4.52 million consumers clicked on Healthcare.gov from Nov. 1-12, 2016, a decline of 16% from 5.36 million from Nov. 1-14, 2015.
Other year-over-year metrics also were down. Total health insurance sign-ups were down 6% to about 1.1 million. That includes consumers signing up for the first time, which declined 33% to 246,433. However, the number of consumers renewing their coverage was up7% to 761,785. Other metrics that were down or essentially unchanged include total applications (flat at 2.05 million), the number of consumers who view policy research but have yet to buy or renew (down year over year 33% to 1.2 million) and call center volume (a decline of 17% to 1.24 million).
Officials at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services didnt comment on why traffic and other Healthcare.gov metrics were down in the early going. And there have been days of heavy volume. For example, enrollment accelerated on Nov. 9the day after Obamacare critic He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was elected presidentand more than 300,000 people selected plans over the next three days.
Over 1 million people have already signed up for 2017 coverage through HealthCare.gov, says U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
Traffic spurtsand renewals for health insurance onlineare picking up, apparently because consumers are anxious to get health benefits and government financial assistance before the Affordable Care Act is overhauled or replaced altogether. There is consumer anxiety out there, says Sandy Ahn, an associate research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetowns Health Policy Institute. Nobody is certain whats to come.
Healthcare.govs prospects as a health insurance e-commerce platform may also be at risk if insurers continue to pull out of the public exchange marketor if current enrollees are no longer able to obtain the financial assistance that makes insurance plans more affordable for lower-income individuals. Healthcare.gov has proven to be a good platform for signing people up and educating them about healthcare, Ahn says. But a marketplace needs sellers, and if there is less choice of insurers for the 2018 health benefits enrollment season or major reform the future of Healthcare.gov is mixed.