clear
Monday December 11th, 2017 12:13PM

While still rising, health law sign-ups likely to fall short

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sign-ups for the Affordable Care Act's subsidized health insurance are still rising, the government said Wednesday. But with just over a week to go in an enrollment season cut in half, experts say the final tally is likely to fall short.

About 3.6 million people signed up through Dec. 2 in states served by the federal HealthCare.gov website, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That's about 20 percent higher than the comparable period last year.

However, this year's open enrollment ends Dec. 15, and last time around it continued through Jan. 31.

Barring an unusually strong final surge, experts say it's unlikely that enrollment for 2018 will match the initial 12.2 million sign-ups for this year.

It's been a tumultuous year for the health care program passed under former President Barack Obama. The law has been credited for expanding coverage and driving the nation's uninsured rate to a historic low of about 9 percent. President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress set out to repeal "Obamacare," but repeated attempts have ended in failure.

The Trump administration cut the enrollment season in half, saying that would actually benefit the ACA by bringing it in line with other health insurance programs. At the same time, the administration slashed the advertising budget for 2018 from $100 million to $10 million.

Disappointing sign-ups will set off another round of the political blame game over health care, with Democrats accusing the administration of "sabotage" and Republicans saying it's the fault of "Obamacare." Trump says the program is "imploding."

"It's almost certain enrollment will end lower, and potentially much lower," said Caroline Pearson of the health care consulting firm Avalere Health, which tracks the ACA's insurance markets. "The problem is ... the healthiest people are the ones who don't sign up when enrollment drops."

That feeds a vicious cycle of rising premiums, lower enrollment and dwindling insurer participation.

There are some caveats, including factors that tend to raise enrollment:

— The latest numbers are just for the 39 states served by the federal health insurance website. States running their own health care markets have later deadlines. Big states like California and New York could boost the final count, which isn't likely to be available for weeks.

— The final figure could also be raised by the number of people automatically re-enrolled in the plan they had for this year. That statistic isn't revealed until the very end of sign-up season.

Former Obama administration official Lori Lodes said she thinks if sign-up season hadn't been cut short, the ACA would have surprised naysayers with a strong performance.

"The demand is just so big this year, but there's little time left," Lodes said.

But the Trump administration is defending its decision to shorten open enrollment, saying Obama had planned to follow the same schedule — only commencing a year later, for 2019.

Spokesman Nathan Bult said a shorter enrollment window benefits the program because consumers who sign up by the deadline are guaranteed coverage starting Jan. 1.

The shorter period also nudges healthy procrastinators who might have tried to sign up later on to enroll for a full year, Bult said. And it reduces opportunities for people to try to enroll only after they get sick, which can drive up premiums for everyone else.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Testimony winds down at ex-South Carolina officer sentencing
A white former South Carolina police officer who fatally shot a black motorist in 2015 could learn his fate as soon as Wednesday afternoon as his federal sentencing hearing winds down on its third day
11:02AM ( 3 minutes ago )
Russian President Putin announces re-election bid
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday declared his intention to seek re-election next March, the vote he appears certain to win
10:57AM ( 8 minutes ago )
Donald Trump Jr. in private interview with House panel
Donald Trump Jr. has arrived on Capitol Hill for a private interview as part of the House intelligence committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election
10:51AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Temporary OK for travel ban puts focus on Wednesday hearing
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision allowing President Donald Trump's third travel ban to take effect has intensified the attention on a legal showdown before three judges in Seattle who have previously been cool to the administration's efforts
10:22AM ( 44 minutes ago )
The Latest: Christian leaders decry expected US Embassy move
The head of the Arab League says an expected U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be an "unjustified provocation" for Arabs
10:16AM ( 50 minutes ago )
Judge considers whether ricin suspect should remain detained
A federal judge will consider whether a woman accused of manufacturing ricin and testing the deadly toxin on fellow residents of a senior living facility in Vermont should continue to be detained.
10:11AM ( 55 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Survey: US businesses added a solid 190,000 jobs in November
Survey: US businesses added a solid 190,000 jobs in November, driven by big gain in factory jobs
10:15AM ( 51 minutes ago )
Report: West Coast homeless crisis pushes US count higher
Soaring rents in California, Oregon and Washington have led to a surge in homelessness in those states, pushing the US homeless population higher for the first time in seven years
9:51AM ( 1 hour ago )
Catalan leader speaks for first time since warrants lifted
Catalonia's secessionist leader says that he and four of his closest allies will stay in Belgium for the foreseeable future even though Spain has lifted the international arrest warrants against them
9:51AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
UK government made no analysis of Brexit's economic impact
The U.K. official shepherding Britain's departure from the European Union says the government has made no formal assessments of the economic impact of leaving the 28-nation bloc
8:57AM ( 2 hours ago )
US records strongest US worker productivity in 3 years
US productivity jumps 3 percent in third quarter, best showing in 3 years, while labor costs fall
8:54AM ( 2 hours ago )
French president visits Algeria to boost cooperation
French President Emmanuel Macron is traveling to Algeria for a one-day working visit aimed at strengthening the security and economic cooperation between the two countries
8:39AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Russian President Putin announces re-election bid
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday declared his intention to seek re-election next March, the vote he appears certain to win
10:57AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Donald Trump Jr. in private interview with House panel
Donald Trump Jr. has arrived on Capitol Hill for a private interview as part of the House intelligence committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election
10:51AM ( 15 minutes ago )
APNewsBreak: Accusers take on toxic culture in TV newsrooms
Women who say they were sexually harassed or mistreated by powerful men in television news are banding together to form a support network aimed at changing newsroom culture
10:42AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Putin will allow Russians to compete at Pyeongchang Olympics
Russian President Vladimir Putin won't boycott the Pyeongchang Olympics
10:42AM ( 24 minutes ago )
House conservatives show openness to bill averting shutdown
Hard-right House conservatives are signaling an openness to backing a short-term spending bill this week
10:26AM ( 40 minutes ago )