- About 8.8 million people enrolled in Obamacare plans for 2018 through the federal Healthcare.gov marketplace.
- That was only slightly less than the 9.2 million people that enrolled last year, despite attempts to undermine the law by the Trump administration.
- The number does not include the 12 state-run exchanges, many of which have longer sign-up periods.
Even without its namesake in office, the law known as Obamacare barely slowed down in 2017.
Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, said Thursday that 8.8 million people enrolled in insurance plans for 2018 through the federal Healthcare.gov exchange.
That falls just 400,000 short of the 9.2 million that enrolled in 2017 plans, meaning the current sign-up period drew just under 96% of last year’s enrollment.
The number was particularly surprising given the Trump administration’s attempts to meddle in the sign-up period. It dramatically slashed the budget for outreach and advertising and cut the enrollment window to just six weeks rather than three months.
There was a significant surge in the last few days of enrollment. As of December 9, just a few days before the December 15 deadline, 4.6 million were people enrolled. CMS said more than 4.1 million people, including those who automatically enrolled, signed up in the final week.
According to the report, 6.4 million enrollees were returning customers renewing coverage, up from 6.2 million last year. New enrollees dropped to around 2.4 million from 3 million last year.
The total does not include state-run marketplaces, many of which still have ongoing sign-up periods.
Health policy experts were taken aback by the numbers, as the total of enrollees exceeded initial expectations. Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy think thank, called the number “truly remarkable.”
“I confess to being very surprised that ACA marketplace enrollment is down only slightly,” Levitt tweeted. “That didn’t seem possible with a 90% reduction in outreach, an enrollment period cut in half, and a constant refrain that the program is dead.”
The final tally for the federal exchange comes the day after Republicans passed their tax bill which repeals Obamacare’s individual mandate, a key piece of the law.
Trump said the mandate’s repeal amounted to undoing the entire law.
“The individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed because they get their money from the individual mandate,” the president said Wednesday.
While the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million more people would be without insurance in 2027 without the mandate compared to with it, the office also said that the Obamacare exchanges would remain stable under the law and many people would be shielded from possible premium increases due to government subsidies.