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Saturday December 15th, 2018 5:59PM

'Obamacare' sign-up tally dips slightly to 8.7M

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 8.7 million people signed up for coverage next year under the Obama-era health care law, the government reported Thursday, as the program that President Donald Trump has repeatedly pronounced "a disaster" exceeded expectations.

The final tally for the 39 HealthCare.gov states showed about 80,000 fewer sign-ups than an initial count provided last week, before the Christmas holiday. A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the slight dip was due to late cancellations.

Still, HealthCare.gov enrollment reached nearly 95 percent of last year's level, outperforming projections in a show of consumer demand, despite a shortened sign-up season and big cuts in the ad budget.

Ahead of open enrollment, analysts had predicted somewhere around 1 million to 2 million fewer people would sign up for subsidized private coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

But the latest numbers indicate that new customers kept showing up as the Dec. 15 enrollment deadline closed. More than 66,000 new customers were added since the pre-Christmas enrollment report.

The dip in enrollment appears to be due to returning customers dropping out. There were about 145,000 fewer of those since the pre-Christmas report.

Some of those dropouts are likely to be people whose current plans were cancelled for next year, and who were reassigned to coverage that they didn't like.

A complete national tally may not be available until March, as states running their own health insurance markets are continuing to sign up consumers. In California and New York, enrollment season ends Jan. 31.

While Trump says he'll still try to repeal and replace "Obamacare," prospects in Congress appear dim with Republicans losing a Senate seat in Alabama. A bipartisan bill to shore up the health law's markets is also pending, but faces an uncertain outlook.

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