There is cautious optimism from government officials and industry experts that Affordable Care Act (ACA) sign-ups will exceed the Obama administration’s goal of nine million enrollees for 2015.
People have until Tuesday at midnight PST to sign up for coverage under the ACA, also known as Obamacare. About 6.7 million people enrolled in the ACA’s insurance exchanges last year, despite Republican opposition to health-care expansion that includes laws and policies designed to strike at the heart of Obamacare.
Some GOP-controlled legislatures, however, have made efforts to expand Medicaid—a popular policy across the political spectrum.
Open enrollment will continue for the next few months, and the final deadline for those seeking coverage for 2015 is February 15. That’s the deadline to avoid tax penalties in 2016 for not having health insurance. All health insurance coverage for 2014 through the the ACA ends December 31.
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This year’s ACA open enrollment has gone much more smoothly than last year, when the initial roll out of the federal health-care program was plagued by technical glitches on the ACA website. HealthCare.gov—the website that processes enrollments for 37 states—was overhauled this year to improve its performance.
Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, a nonprofit organization that works to get people enrolled in and retain health coverage, told USA Today that the difference between this year’s enrollment and last year’s has been “night-and-day.”
Filipic said that efforts by her organization and others to maximize participation seem to be working.
“We’re seeing the beginning of a ripple effect that we’ve been expecting for a while,” Filipic said. “There was a surge at the end of open enrollment last year, and based on human behavior, I think we’ll see something similar this year.”
To date 1.4 million people have signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov, and industry experts are predicting that the total number of people who sign up for the first time or renew their insurance will surpass the Obama administration’s projected goal of 9.1 million people with coverage through the ACA.
As the deadline approaches, the health insurance industry will be watching for a late surge in those applying for benefits, and whether or not the government website will be able to handle the influx of traffic.
Ken Janda, the CEO of a small Texas insurer, Community Health Choice, told Politico that so far he is optimistic about the website’s success.
“We are guardedly optimistic but still nervous, because it’s brand new,” Janda said. “Given how much better things have worked this year than last year, it gives us some reason to believe that this will actually work.”
Despite the recent success of the ACA in expanding health coverage, it remains a source of contention among Republican lawmakers, especially those in state legislatures. A lawmaker in Missouri has already pre-filed a bill that would revoke the licenses of health insurance companies that offer plans through the ACA, directly undermining the federal health law and making affordable health insurance more difficult to find for many Missourians.