Record Number of “Obamacare” Enrollments

Source: New York Times

More than 20 million people have signed up for plans on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces during the annual open enrollment period, far surpassing last year’s record of more than 16 million enrollments, the Biden administration announced on Wednesday.

The figures were a landmark moment for the 2010 health law, underscoring the significance of enhanced subsidies for Americans and the continuing reach of the marketplaces after years of Republican efforts to whittle them down.

“The marketplaces are getting stronger and more embedded into the fabric of U.S. health care,” said Adrianna McIntyre, a health policy expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The more the marketplaces grow, the more it enhances their stability.”

The Biden administration revealed last month that on Dec. 15 — the deadline to sign up for coverage that began on Jan. 1 — almost 750,000 people signed up for a marketplace plan on HealthCare.gov, the largest single-day total. The full tally could grow in the coming days; the deadline to sign up for plans is 5 a.m. Eastern on Jan. 17, giving Americans coverage that begins next month.

The enrollees include people like Kennita Hickman, 39, who has several autoimmune disorders and was on the verge of losing her Medicaid coverage late last year because her income was too high to qualify for the government program. She found a lifeline in a free Obamacare plan, which has allowed her access to doctors and a therapist.

“I have three health conditions that I have to manage,” said Ms. Hickman, who owns a media company in Milwaukee. “Being without insurance is always scary.”

Health policy experts say the record number of sign-ups has been largely attributable to increased federal subsidies for those purchasing plans on the marketplaces, which were initially part of a congressional spending package in 2021. The subsidies, which increased at every level of income, were renewed through 2025.

Researchers have estimated that in the roughly 30 states using HealthCare.gov, premium payments would have been more than 50 percent higher on average if not for the subsidies.

The subsidies have proved helpful to broad swaths of Americans, including those in upper-middle-income groups. And they have allowed many lower-income people, including Ms. Hickman, to sign up for plans with no premiums and lower deductibles.

Some of those signing up on the marketplaces lost Medicaid for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, after a federal rule guaranteeing coverage expired in April and forced millions of people to hunt for new plans.

In his statement on Wednesday, Mr. Biden called out “extreme Republicans” for efforts to block reforms.

“Their plan would raise costs for millions of people, especially older Americans and small business owners who rely on the marketplace for their coverage, by repealing the improvements I signed into law,” he said. “In fact, they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, just as my predecessor tried and failed to do.”

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