More than 8.2 million people signed up for health insurance plans for 2021 through the Affordable Care Act’s federal insurance marketplaces according to figures released recently by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
The latest weekly enrollment snapshot reveals how many people selected plans by end of the final day of the 2021 Open Enrollment Period on December 15, 2020. This total preliminary enrollment figure is nearly as high as 2020’s 8.3 million enrollments, despite the fact that New Jersey and Pennsylvania transitioned to State-based Exchange platforms for the 2021 Open Enrollment Period and as a result, selections in these states are no longer included in the snapshot.
Removing these states in addition to Nevada, which transitioned to a state-based exchange for the 2020 Open Enrollment Period, comparing year-over-year trends shows plan selections this year increased by 6.6% from 2020, 6.3% from 2019, and 2.2% from 2018.
The preliminary data indicates enrollment continues to remain stable and that with the investments of recent years to improve the stability and experience on the HealthCare.gov platform, more consumers were able to actively enroll or re-enroll in coverage for 2021 this year without the need for waiting rooms.
“Annual enrollment data shows that the Trump Administration’s focus on delivering more choices along with a smooth and streamlined consumer experience continues to drive strong enrollment,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We’ve opened more pathways to enroll by taking advantage of private sector and people are clearly finding the coverage they need at this critical time. Congratulations to the CMS team for all their hard work in bringing another Open Enrollment Period to a successful conclusion.”
Nearly one-fourth, or 1.8 million, of the participants signed up for the first time, CMS reports, without any mention of the coronavirus pandemic that no doubt influenced enrollments with many having to recalculate how much they qualified for in federal subsidies because their incomes had declined because of the pandemic.
There are many factors that impact enrollment each year. CMS noted in a statement that this is the third consecutive year of improving market conditions, including lower premiums and more plan options under the Trump Administration’s policies.
Three years of declining average benchmark plan premiums have combined to deliver an 8% average premium reduction across states with Exchanges using HealthCare.gov since the 2018 coverage year. Many consumers who went to HealthCare.gov found more options, given that issuer participation increased for the third year in a row.
Overall, CMS has seen the percent of counties in HealthCare.gov states with only one issuer available to consumers drop to 10% for Plan Year 2021, down from over 56% in Plan Year 2018.
This year, new resources were available to support consumer enrollment, including an increase in the number of licensed agents and brokers registered with the Exchange. Nearly 50,000 agents and brokers were registered with the Exchanges to help consumers during the 2021 Open Enrollment Period.
CMS also updated and improved the HealthCare.gov experience by incorporating integrated help and enhanced resources. These updates provided content that guided consumers and enabled enrollees to easily access and understand information they may have needed to make informed choices about coverage.
CMS’s primary goal for the Open Enrollment Period was to provide a seamless experience for consumers. Despite the strong volume in the final days, both HealthCare.gov and the call center operated optimally. An online waiting room didn’t need to be deployed during the final days of the Open Enrollment Period, and less than five hours of planned maintenance was used over the entire Open Enrollment Period. This meant consumers were able to shop for and pick a plan with little interruption throughout the entire enrollment period. For the fourth straight year in a row, the consumer satisfaction rate at the Call Center remained high—averaging over 90%—throughout the entire OEP.
This preliminary Open Enrollment Period snapshot covers activities from November 1, 2020 through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on December 15, 2020. The plan selection data reported in the snapshot are not final and do not include plan selections for consumers who selected plans from midnight to 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time on December 16, 2020, or consumers who left their contact information at the call center due to high volume.
The final number of plan selections associated with enrollment activity during a reporting period may change due to plan modifications or cancellations. CMS plans to release an updated snapshot in January with the final enrollment data.
To view the latest snapshot, visit: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/federal-health-insurance-exchange-weekly-enrollment-snapshot-week-six