(Bloomberg) — About 6 million people have signed up for health coverage that will take effect on Jan. 1 in the states that use the HealthCare.gov enrollment system the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said Friday.
That’s up from about 3.4 million people who had signed up for Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) coverage through the federal system at about the same time last year, CMS officials said today on a conference call. It’s difficult to compare the enrollment periods directly because sign-ups for the PPACA exchange, also known as Obamacare, began on different dates this year and last year.
The current 2016 open enrollment period started Nov. 1 and is set to end Jan. 31.
The 2015 open enrollment period started Nov. 15 and ended Feb. 15.
This is the third PPACA annual enrollment period. Insurers, regulators and PPACA exchange managers developed the enrollment period system, which limits consumers’ ability to buy coverage on a guaranteed-issue basis to certain months of the year, to discourage healthier consumers from waiting until they get sick to pay for coverage.
Sign-ups this year will provide an important indicator of how PPACA is faring as the 2016 election approaches.
“These numbers tell an important story about a vibrant, healthy, growing marketplace,” Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of CMS, said on the conference call. “It’s clear now that many people have been waiting to purchase coverage until this enrollment cycle.”
The PPACA exchange system can help consumers sign up for Medicaid and health public health coverage as well as for private health insurance.
The figures released Friday include only sign-ups for commercial health insurance, and only for sign-ups in the 38 states that use the HealthCare.gov enrollment system. The figures don’t include sign-up information from states such as California and New York that have their own state-based exchange enrollment systems.
Earlier this week, HealthCare.gov managers extended the deadline to buy health coverage with a Jan. 1 start date to Dec. 17, from Dec. 15. System managers said they made that move because a surge in demand at the HealthCare.gov website kept some consumers from getting through to purchase plans. Many states that run their own shopping systems — including New York, California, Maryland and Minnesota — also delayed their deadlines. Most people can buy policies that start later in 2016 until the end of January.