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Millions And Millions Served

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4 Key Points About The New ACA Enrollment Numbers

The Department of Health and Human Services released the latest Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers yesterday, showing that 942,000 people enrolled in private health plans through the insurance marketplace in February. That brings the total number enrolled in private plans to over 4.2 million people with a month left until the March 31 enrollment deadline. After the deadline, those without coverage will be fined $95 or 1% of their taxable income, whichever is greater.

But these top line numbers don’t tell the whole story. Here are four things you need to know about the latest enrollment report:

1. Per-day enrollment increased from January to February. The Washington Post headline after the enrollment numbers came out yesterday read “Obamacare enrollment drops off in February.” But while January enrollment was 170,000 above February’s, it’s not that simple. When you take into account the fact that February has fewer days than January, and that January actually included a few days in December in its reporting period, the per-day sign-up rate actually increased. As the March 31 deadline approaches, more and more people are learning about the benefits of the law and are signing up for coverage.

2. The rate of young adult enrollment is steady. Young adults comprised 27 percent of the marketplace sign-ups in February, holding steady from January and up from 24 percent from October to December. (This is not surprising given young people are expected to wait until closer to the deadline to enroll.) Some have worried that too few younger, healthy people in the exchange would result in “adverse selection” — an exchange disproportionately filled with older, sicker individuals. But studies have shown that even in a worst-case scenario, which has already been overcome, premiums would likely increase by just a couple percentage points.

3. People are taking advantage of financial help to lower their costs. Of those who have selected a plan, 83 percent have qualified for financial assistance to reduce the cost. In fact, most uninsured people don’t know how likely they are to qualify for financial help to help lower the cost of enrolling. There is even an insurance subsidy calculator to help figure it out.

4. Things are ramping up for a big March surge. The expectation all along has been that there will be a spike in enrollment as the deadline approaches. And we are already starting to see that take place. In a creative and hilarious appeal to get young people to enroll, President Obama appeared on an episode of Zach Galifianakis’s show Between Two Ferns, a popular spoof of public access TV by the comedy website Funny or Die. By the afternoon, administration officials reported the comedy site was the number one driver of traffic to healthcare.gov, and today they said traffic jumped 40 percent from the previous day. In addition to creative marketing, advocacy groups around the country have put together over 4,000 events related to enrollment before the end of March (helpfully arranged at ACAfinancialhelp.com if you or someone you know needs to enroll!).

BOTTOM LINE: Millions of Americans are signing up for affordable coverage using the individual marketplace, and the latest enrollment numbers demonstrate that momentum is building for a big March. Stay tuned, and make sure everyone you know gets covered!