The HealthCare.gov public exchange system may be attracting fewer new customers this year but doing a better job of retaining in-force business.
Managers of HealthCare.gov had 2017 exchange plan selection information for 8.8 million people in their system as of Dec. 31, according to a new report.
About 2.2 million of the plan selectors, or 25 percent of the selectors, were new to HealthCare.gov. The others had coverage from HealthCare.gov exchange plan issuers in 2016, and are sticking with HealthCare.gov issuers this year.
The open enrollment period for 2017 started Nov. 1 and is set to end Jan. 31.
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set up HealthCare.gov to provide Affordable Care Act exchange plan enrollment and account administration services in states that are unwilling or unable to perform the job themselves. The system handles ACA exchange enrollment in 38 states.
Managers issued a similar HealthCare.gov activity report, for 2016 coverage, about a year ago. The reporting period used in that report ended Dec. 26, 2015.
In the report for the period ending Dec. 26, 2015, HealthCare.gov managers said they had signup information for 8.5 million people, including 2.5 million people who were new to the system, and 6 million who had accounts with HealthCare.gov in 2015 and were continuing to use HealthCare.gov issuer coverage in 2016.
The total number of plan selectors reported increased 2.8 percent. The number of new plan selectors fell 11 percent. The number of returning enrollees increased 8.5 percent.
Related: HealthCare.gov increases signups 6%
The last time HealthCare.gov managers reported activity data for 2017, they excluded people who were being automatically re-enrolled in exchange plan coverage. The new figures include the automatic re-enrollees.
CMS avoids calling new users who have just signed up for coverage “enrollees,” because exchange users are not health plan enrollees until they effectuate their coverage by making premium payments. Some of the new plan selectors have paid their premiums, but some have not. In the past, about 85 percent of exchange plan selectors have effectuated their coverage.