November 7, 2019

177K people signed up for federal exchange plans last week—but a glitch might have prevented more

Daily Briefing

    CMS on Wednesday announced 177,082 individuals signed up for federal exchange plans during the first two days of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) current open enrollment period.

    The federal open enrollment period for the 2020 coverage year launched Nov. 1 and is scheduled to close on Dec. 15.

    177K signed up for federal exchange plans

    The data CMS released Wednesday includes signups that occurred from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2, which marked the first week of the ACA's current open enrollment period. CMS explained, "As in past years, enrollment weeks are measured Sunday through Saturday. Consequently, week one was only two days long this year."

    CMS said it will update the data every week during the open enrollment period.

    The data include signups in the 39 states that use the federal exchange for enrollment. The data do not indicate whether individuals paid their first month's premiums, a step that effectively completes the enrollment process.

    CMS said 177,082 individuals selected federal exchange plans during the first week of the open enrollment period. According to CMS, that figure included:

    • 128,159 returning customers; and
    • 48,923 new customers.

    CMS said the federal exchange enrollment call center received a total of 144,168 calls on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, while HealthCare.gov had more than 1.18 million users.

    Signups slightly lower when compared with last year

    The number of signups during the first week of this open enrollment is down from the 371,676 who signed up for federal exchange plans during the first week of last year's open enrollment, which spanned three days, from Nov. 1 to Nov. 3:

    CMS said users experienced technical issues with HealthCare.gov on Friday, which likely resulted in fewer signups. "On the first day of open enrollment, some consumers received error messages, which have been addressed," CMS said.

    According to Inside Health Policy, HealthCare.gov functioned "normal[ly] … throughout the weekend."

    A CMS spokesperson said the agency "is committed to ensuring consumers have a seamless experience." The agency said it plans to "closely monitor" HealthCare.gov throughout the open enrollment period.

    In addition to the technical glitches, Get America Covered Co-Founder Josh Peck, who oversaw ACA enrollment under former President Barack Obama's administration, said initial signups might appear slower this year when compared with last year because of the days on which the open enrollment periods launched. Peck noted that the first day of last year's open enrollment period saw higher traffic, but it occurred on a Thursday, while this year's open enrollment period launched on a Friday (Hellmann, The Hill, 11/6; AP/ABC News, 11/1; Lotven, Inside Health Policy, 11/4 [subscription required]; Lotven, Inside Health Policy, 11/5 [subscription required]).

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