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The HealthCare.gov team may have held 2018 enrollment shrinkage to just 4.5%, in spite of uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act and a 30% drop in agent registrations.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says it received plan selection information for 2018 individual major medical insurance for 8.8 million people during the open enrollment period.

For 2017, HealthCare.gov received signup information for 9.2 million people.

(Related: 5 Hints About the Fate of This Major Medical World)

The open enrollment period for 2017 coverage started Nov. 1, 2016, and ended Jan. 31, 2017.

The open enrollment period for 2018 coveraged started Nov. 1, 2017, and ended Dec. 15, 2017.

CMS posted its latest signup data summary here.

CMS reports plan signup numbers, rather than sales, because HealthCare.gov gives people who sign up for plans several weeks to “effectuate” coverage by making their first premium payments.

An ACA exchange gives consumers a mechanism for buying health plans from private insurers.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set up HealthCare.gov to provide ACA exchange services for states that were unwilling or unable to provide exchange services for their own residents. The system now provides exchange services for residents of 39 states.

Some observers predicted that, because of the shorter HealthCare.gov open enrollment period and insurer menu changes, HealthCare.gov signup activity for 2018 could be much lower than its signup activity for 2017. 

One early indicator was the number of agents and brokers interested in offering HealthCare.gov coverage. At the beginning of the latest open enrollment period, the number of registered producers was about 30% lower than it was at the beginning of the open enrollment period for 2017 coverage. HealthCare.gov has not released producer production figures. It’s not clear from public data whether the producers who did register for the latest open enrollment period were more active or less active.

State-Based Exchanges

Colorado’s state-based exchange does release producer production figures. There, average exchange plan volume for the producers still associated with the exchange system appears to be much higher this year than it was last year.

Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net has reported that the 12 surviving state-based exchange programs have received 2018 plan selection information for at least 2.8 million people, suggesting that the ACA exchange system may be on track to be covering 11.6 million people in 2018.

This year, the exchange system has been administering exchange accounts for about 12 million people.

Gaba notes that the state-based exchange programs in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York state, Rhode Island, Washington state and the District of Columbia all have 2018 open enrollment periods that will end on or after Dec. 31. Enrollment growth at the state-based exchanges could push the nationwide total over 13 million.


The Context

HealthCare.gov has kept volume up at a time when other life and health sectors have faced sales headwinds.

MIB Group Inc., an insurance application integrity verification group, says the number of individually underwritten U.S. and Canadian life insurance applications processed through its systems during the first 11 months of November was 2% lower than during the first 11 months of 2016.

LIMRA says issuers of individual annuities suffered an 11% drop in revenue from new sales during the first three quarters of 2017 when compared with the first three quarters of 2016.

—Read HealthCare.gov Volume Flattens Out on ThinkAdvisor.


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