Enrollment in health plans sold on Obamacare’s insurance exchanges has reached 8 million, and 35% of those who signed up through HealthCare.gov are under the age of 35, President Barack Obama said Thursday.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “is now covering more people at less cost than most would have predicted a few months ago,” the president said in a White House news briefing.
Obama also held a meeting Thursday at the White House with several health insurance executives, including Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Dr. Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections and chair of the National Alliance of State Health Co-ops. “Certainly every insurer that was in the room with the president said the horse is out of the barn,” Hickey said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to re-saddle it for 2015.”
Enrollment comfortably topped the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that 7 million individuals would sign up for coverage during the first open-enrollment period. Following the disastrous rollout of the state and federal exchanges, hitting that benchmark appeared unlikely. Through the first five months of enrollment, just 4.2 million individuals had signed up for commercial plans through the exchanges.
The federal exchange, which is enrolling individuals in 36 states, saw a significant increase in the number of young adults signing up for coverage during the final weeks of enrollment. In total, 28% of enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34. That was up from 25% through February, when the White House last released demographic data on exchange participants. But it’s still well below the 35% to 40% that most experts believe is necessary to create a sustainable risk pool.
The open-enrollment period closed on March 31. But the federal government, along with most state-based exchanges, allowed individuals who had started the enrollment process to complete their applications through mid-April. That allowed an additional 1 million consumers to sign up for coverage.
The enrollment numbers should be viewed with some caveats. They include an unknown number of people who signed up for a plan, but never followed through with a premium payment, and therefore aren’t actually covered. In addition, the Obama administration has not released any data on how many individuals signing up for coverage through the government-run marketplaces were previously uninsured. A recent survey by the Urban Institute estimated that figure at 5.4 million.
The enrollment figures also don’t include totals for individuals who signed up for ACA-compliant plans outside of the exchanges. The CBO estimated this week that 5 million individuals have enrolled in coverage outside of the exchanges.
Obama once again called on Republicans to stop attempting to revoke the healthcare law. Chiding congressional Republicans for repeated votes to repeal the ACA, he said, “That could have been 50 efforts to create jobs … or 50 votes to make it easy for middle-class families to send their kids to college.”
The president added, “The repeal debate is and should be over; the Affordable Care Act is working,” reiterating remarks he has made in recent days and framing the expected debate between candidates on the midterm-election campaign trail this fall.