Despite the looming threat of repeal, more people than ever are signing up for Obamacare

obamacare enrollment florida

Joe Raedle

11.54 million have signed up for plans through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA), better known as Obamacare, marketplaces so far this open enrollment season, according to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

According to CMS, this is 286,000 more plan selections than were made through the same time period last year, making it the most sign ups in the four years of the marketplaces.

“Nationwide demand for health coverage is higher than ever, as Americans prove again that Marketplace coverage is vital to them and their families,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in a release from CMS.

Add in state-level exchanges in New York and Minnesota, and 12.2 million Americans have signed up for some sort of ACA plan.

The sign ups come as the looming threat of the ACA’s repeal by the new Republican-led Congress looms over the law. The GOP appears to be slowing on its plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, but House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a press conference on Tuesday that the law is failing and must be replaced.

CMS pointed to the enrollment numbers as proof that the law is in fact thriving, counter to the GOP’s suggestions.

“Growing demand for Marketplace coverage refutes predictions that 2017 premiums changes would lead to sharp declines in enrollment and a so-called ‘death spiral,’ a notion also debunked in a report released today by the Council of Economic Advisors,” said the release from CMS. “Instead, today’s data show that a broad cross-section of Americans continue to rely on the Marketplace to access affordable, quality coverage.”

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Department of Health and Human Services

One issue that does appear to be nagging the sign ups once again is the lack of young people in the exchanges. According to the CMS, the share of people aged 18 to 34 signing up for ACA plans is the same as the year before, 26%.

The low number of young people in the exchanges has led to an older, sicker risk pool for insurers, which in turn has led to losses and insurers leaving the markets. That trend does not appear to be turning around this year, but it includes only the 8.7 million people who have signed up through Healthcare.gov  and not the state-level exchanges.

Other interesting demographic notes from the Healthcare.gov enrollees:

  • 3.9 million enrollees are white, 584,000 African-American, 882,000 Latino, and 573,000 Asian.
  • 4.8 million enrollees are women, while 4.0 million are men
  • 1.6 million enrollees are classified by CMS as “rural Americans”

Open enrollment will continue through January 31 and the CMS said it intends to push for sign ups up until that point.

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