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The New Year marks a new Obamacare enrollment milestone

The start of 2016 has signaled another achievement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As of Dec. 31, 2015, more than 8.5 million Americans have purchased health coverage during this latest 2016 Open Enrollment Period (OEP). As 6 million of these were policy renewals, this supports the Obama administration’s estimates of as many as 14.7 million ACA enrollees by the end of 2016.

For the period of Dec. 20-26, 2015, Week 8 of the 2016 OEP, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recorded 274,659 plan selections from the 38 states utilizing the federal Marketplace. Of these, 27 percent were new enrollees, while 73 percent were plan renewals. In total, since the OEP’s Nov. 1 start, the CMS has tallied a total of 8,524,935 enrollees, including an estimated 6 million Marketplace plan renewals.

Of these renewals, 2.4 million were automatically renewed and another 3.6 million physically enrolled through the Marketplace.

Progress marked by Open Enrollment snapshots

Not only are these enrollment numbers impressive, but they’ve allowed the government to boost their final predictions. Now, with this current rate of Obamacare sign-ups, they believe that as many as 14.7 million people should enroll by the close of 2016; the estimate for this time period in 2015 was 9.1 million. The enrollment figures are released to the public through the CMS’ weekly Open Enrollment snapshots. These press releases showcase the latest estimates of the ACA’s weekly plan selections, including call center activity and website visits.

The snapshots are important in that they encourage consumers to purchase plans by the mandatory deadlines. Doing so ensures that enrollees and their families have access to the best plan prices, benefits, availability of doctors and prescription drug coverage. And should they fail to enroll by the Jan. 31, 2016 deadline, the close of the OEP, consumers may face IRS-imposed tax penalties; specifically, the greater of:

  • $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, for a maximum of $2,085 per family. In 2015, this was $325 per adult and $162.50 per child
  • 2.5 percent of your income above the tax filing threshold; in 2015, this was 2 percent in 2015

The Open Enrollment snapshots apply to those states using the federal Marketplace. However, consumers relying on state-run exchanges and private plans and are not included in these snapshots. And while these enrollment numbers are remarkable, the CMS does point out that the snapshots are not set in stone, due to plan changes or cancellations related to life changes; e.g., marriage, new jobs, etc. And, they only account for plan selections, rather than actual paid premiums.