- Reuters/Jason Reed
The US Department of Health and Human Services expects 13.8 million Americans to sign up for health insurance in 2017 on the public marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act.
This would be an increase of 1.1 million people from last year’s 12.7 million enrollees. The 2017 open-enrollment period runs from November 1 through January. Introduced by the ACA, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare, the marketplaces are designed to provide affordable health-insurance options for people without an employer-based plan or a government plan like Medicare or Medicaid.
The HHS expects 9.2 million people to be repeat enrollees from last year, 3.5 million people to be formerly uninsured, and 1.1 million to be switching from individual plans purchased outside the marketplace.
HHS did say that, as in the past three years, the number of people who actually go on to activate or start using health insurance from the marketplaces will be lower than the number of those who select plans on them during open enrollment.
“Based on the experience of the Marketplaces’ first three years, we expect that plan selections at the end of Open Enrollment will exceed Marketplace effectuated enrollment as the year progresses,” a release from the HHS said. “The number of individuals joining through Special Enrollment Periods (SEP) throughout the year does not fully offset those who leave for other forms of coverage or other reasons.”
In 2016, for example, only 10 million of the 12.7 million people who enrolled in insurance on the marketplaces actually maintained it. This year, the HHS projects the number of people to use marketplace insurance to increase to 11.7 million.
There are a few reasons for this. Some people begin getting employer-based coverage after signing up for plans on the marketplace, while others switch over to Medicaid or Medicare. According to the release from the HHS, a case study in California showed that 85% of people who do not maintain insurance selected from the marketplace move to another form of coverage.
The HHS did warn that because of the young age of the exchanges there is a “high degree of uncertainty about any projection.”
A large number of people receiving coverage – about 1.4 million Americans – will have to find new plans on the exchanges, according to a report from Bloomberg last week, because many large insurance companies including Aetna and UnitedHealthcare are shrinking their offerings for the 2017 plan year.