The annual individual major medical insurance open enrollment period ended quietly Tuesday in the 36 HealthCare.gov states and some other states and there are early signs that it may have finished with strong signup activity, in spite of the lack of news coverage.
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have diverted much of the media attention that has gone to the Affordable Care Act public exchange system and the annual open enrollment period in recent years.
However, a Google Trends search activity indicator showed a big spike in search activity for “HealthCare.gov” Tuesday. Consumers reported on Twitter and other social media services that getting through to HealthCare.gov call centers was taking an hour or more.
About 5 million people had signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov or a locally run exchange as of Dec. 9, according to ACASignups.net, an ACA tracking blog.
Insurers, regulators and ACA public exchange plan managers developed the open enrollment period system, or limits, on when people can buy individual or family health coverage without showing they have what the government classifies as a good reason to be shopping for coverage, in an effort to push young, healthy people to pay for coverage even when they feel fine.
The idea is that young people may come to understand that, if they fail to pay for coverage, they could end up with health problems outside of the open enrollment period, and no way to pay their medical bills or to sign up for health coverage.
The open enrollment period system applies to all individual and family major medical insurance system sold in the United States, whether the coverage is sold inside or outside the ACA public exchange system.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides ACA public exchange system services, or access to a web-based supermarket for health insurance, in 36 states.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have their own locally run public exchange programs.