Consumers Signing Up for PPACA Plans Despite Uncertainty

In first few days, average daily sign-ups nearly double last year

More than 600,000 consumers signed up for individual insurance plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) during the first week of enrollment for 2018, Reuters reports––a positive sign for insurers who take part in the health care program that Republicans are trying to undo.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said that during the period of November 1 through November 4, 601,462 people, including 137,322 new consumers, selected plans in the 39 states that use the federal website HealthCare.gov. That represents a daily average of 150,366 sign-ups.

Lori Lodes, a former HHS official who co-founded the enrollment group Get America Covered, said that during the year-ago period’s first 12 days, the daily average for sign-ups was 84,018.

The early sign-ups were seen as a positive indication of 2018 enrollment despite President Donald Trump’s cut to PPACA advertising of $90 million and his decision to suspend cost sharing subsidy payments to insurers, Reuters reported. Earlier this year, Republican legislators failed to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health reform law.

Premiums have risen by an average of 37% for 2018, although the income-based premium subsidies the government will pay have also risen, making some plans cheaper than in 2017 for certain customers.

“Perhaps the most important incremental datapoint is that the mix of new enrollees (2%) versus renewals (77%) is in line with last year,” Evercore ISI analyst Michael Newshal said in a research note. He said that new customers are essential for a stable enrollment period.

Some of the biggest insurers on the exchanges include Anthem Inc., Centene Corp., and Molina Healthcare. Both Anthem and Molina cut back their plans for 2018 due to uncertainty about the future of the program, while Centene expanded for next year. The sign-ups are a good sign for Centene and hospital operators, including HCA Healthcare Inc., Newshal said.

Enrollment for HealthCare.gov opened on November 1 and runs through December 15, about half the length of 2017. About 10 million people are estimated to have such plans right now and another one million are seen signing up this year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Source: Reuters; November 9, 2017.