Looks like 2015 is shaping up to be a good year for Obamacare.
That’s because enrollment in the law’s federal and state health exchanges is surging ahead of the New Year. So far, more than 6.4 million people have selected policies on the federal exchange, administration officials said on Tuesday.
The latest tally is up from the previous 2.5 million that signed up between Nov 15 and Dec 15. The new numbers includes all plans selected on Healthcare.gov through last Friday. It does not represent how many people have paid for their first months’ premiums.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Obamacare sign-ups are outpacing last year’s numbers and could beat health officials’ expectations. Now the question is, will those who signed up actually pay their premiums or will the attrition rate match last year’s high rate of 16 percent?
Related: Obamacare’s State Exchanges Get a Much Better Start in Year 2
The total number of sign ups so far is likely around the 7.4 million range, including people who enrolled in the 13 states and the District of Columbia that operate their own exchanges. Sign-ups on the state exchanges from Nov 15. To Dec 15 totaled more than 1 million. And that number is likely to go up before the end of the month.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters that most of the sign ups (about two-thirds) were returning customers who were auto-enrolled in the same plans they had last year. That isn’t necessarily a good sign—since the administration has spent the last few months warning returning Obamacare enrollees that relying on the auto-enroll function could result in higher costs next year.
In the last few months, administration officials have aggressively encouraged returning customers to shop around on the marketplace this year instead of auto-enrolling in order to potentially get a better deal—since the majority of premiums on plans sold last year have gone up and there are more plans on the market this year.
"We believe it is important to shop and compare," Burwell said, adding that most people received between three and 10 letters or phone calls. "We emphasized very strongly and tried to communicate with people about coming in."
Related: Obamacare Enrollees Could Get Hit With Surprise Costs
The surge in enrollment comes on the heels of the December 15th deadline to sign up for coverage beginning next year, though insurers in most states have extended their deadlines to the end of the month for consumers to get coverage.
The latest number has many experts confident that Obamacare will beat HHS’s goal of enrolling more than 9 million people in coverage through the exchanges in 2015. Larry Levitt, the senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, tweeted that it’s likely that final enrollment for 2015 lands somewhere between the HHS goal and the Congressional Budget Office’s previous estimate of 13 million enrollees.
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