Last night's announcement came in a video release featuring President Obama and HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. The president cited the Affordable Care Act's reach into previously underserved markets and the increased level of consumer choice in 2015; increased competition as the law goes forward will drive down premiums over time, he said.
Preliminary estimates show that 11.4 million Americans re-enrolled or signed up for health coverage for the first time during the 2015 open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Open enrollment ended Sunday.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced the figure in a video with President Barack Obama, which was released on the White House Facebook page yesterday evening.
Ms Burwell also described the huge turnout at enrollment centers on Sunday, which was the deadline to sign up or face tax penalties for not having coverage. “On the final day, we had more consumers sign up than we’ve ever had.”
The 11.4 million total, if validated, far exceeds earlier targets of 9 million enrollees through the end of 2015 enrollment. Last year, massive problems with the launch of the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, had Obama Administration officials scrambling to meet the 2014 target of 7 million enrollees. HealthCare.gov is used by consumers in 37 states.
While HHS officials appeared to catch up and hit that target in the final weeks last year, it was later revealed that CMS had counted 400,000 consumers who bought stand-alone dental plans on the exchange. After consumers who failed to follow up with premium payments were netted out, the final 2014 enrollment figure was 6.7 million.
Since that time, both former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, one of President Obama’s earliest supporters, and CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner have resigned.
Compared with the announcement of last year’s final enrollment figure, which was held on the White House lawn, this year’s video release was comparatively low-key. President Obama touted the ACA’s reach into previously underserved markets, as well as this year’s improved level of consumer choice, which he said would continue to drive down premium costs over time.
"The Affordable Care Act is working," the president said. "And I'll tell you, everywhere I go around the country, I'm meeting individuals who come up and thank me. How passionate they are about the difference it’s made in their lives, it really reminds me why we do all of this."
He thanked the volunteers and navigators who assisted consumers in signing up for coverage, which he called, “aka Obamacare.” In states that did not expand Medicaid, volunteers are also helping some consumers complete exemption forms for their tax returns. This would allow those who fall between 100% and 138% of the federal poverty level to possibly avoid penalties for not having health coverage, since they live in states with a “coverage gap.” Medicaid expansion was a core component of the ACA whose enrollees fall outside the 11.4 million figure; however, a Supreme Court ruling let decide whether to expand the program.
This year, penalties for failing to secure health coverage are $325 or 2% of income.
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