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13.8 million Americans expected to select Marketplace plans during the upcoming Open Enrollment

Secretary Burwell describes improvements in the Health Insurance Marketplace, its role in a better health care system for all Americans, and this year’s data-driven outreach efforts

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell today announced that she expects 13.8 million individuals to sign up for coverage through the Marketplaces during the upcoming Open Enrollment, showing continued robust growth.  The projection was announced as part of her remarks highlighting the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) success in dramatically expanding access to coverage, and describing the Marketplace’s role in the Administration’s work to create a smarter health care system that puts Americans at the center of their care.

“We’re confident that millions of Americans will choose to enroll when they learn that quality, affordable health insurance is within reach,” Burwell said. “We believe 13.8 million sign-ups during the upcoming Open Enrollment will help keep driving down the national uninsured rate, which is already the lowest in our nation’s history.”

In her remarks, Burwell described America’s health care system before the ACA – a system where consumers could be locked out of coverage because they had asthma or survived cancer, where women could be charged more than men just because of their gender, and where the broken individual insurance market kept entrepreneurs locked into jobs instead of giving them the freedom to start their own businesses.

Now, thanks to the ACA, millions of Americans can access a transparent market to shop for coverage, and apply for financial assistance to help them afford it. Burwell expressed confidence that when people come back to shop on HealthCare.gov, they’ll find a plan that meets their needs. The Marketplace has proven that it offers products that people want and need, Burwell said, but to make the Marketplace work as well as it possibly can will require collaborative effort.

“We’ve put our ideas on the table to build on the historic progress achieved under the ACA and continue to improve America’s health care system,” she said. “We need partners. And we are hopeful that soon, we’ll see bipartisan collaboration in Congress and the States that will help us make improvements to the law.”

Coinciding with the Secretary’s remarks, the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) today released a report detailing its enrollment projections for 2017. By the end of the Open Enrollment, it expects 13.8 million people to have selected a plan, which represents an increase of 1.1 million people over the 12.7 million plan selections at the end of 2016’s Open Enrollment. This represents roughly the same percentage growth in plan selections as last year. The report also estimates monthly effectuated enrollment will average 11.4 million people over the course of 2017.

In addition to renewals, new signups will come from among the 10.7 million uninsured Americans who are eligible for Marketplace coverage. About 85 percent have incomes that indicate eligibility for financial assistance, while nearly 60 percent have incomes that would also qualify them for cost-sharing reductions in addition to tax credits. Forty percent of the eligible uninsured are 18-34 years old.

Other new sign-ups will come from among the 5.1 million people eligible for the Marketplace who currently purchase off-Marketplace coverage. Of this group, ASPE estimates that 2.5 million people could be eligible for financial assistance if they sign up for Marketplace coverage during this Open Enrollment.

ASPE’s analysis also estimates growth in the size of the individual insurance market since the Affordable Care Act. With the implementation of the law, consumer protections allowed millions of Americans who had previously been locked out of coverage due to pre-existing conditions to buy insurance on an open, fair individual market where insurers can no longer cherry-pick only the healthiest consumers. ASPE estimates that between 2011 and 2016, the number of people covered in the individual market, which includes the Marketplaces, grew by 65 percent.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services detailed its Open Enrollment outreach strategies, which seeks to build on the lessons learned from the last three open enrollments to better target and more efficiently communicate with uninsured Americans about the affordable coverage they will find at HealthCare.gov.

Attendees for today’s remarks included dozens of representatives from organizations partnering with HHS to implement this year’s consumer outreach strategy. The Secretary was introduced by Marketplace consumer Nathan Auldridge, a 33-year-old teacher from Salem, Virginia.

Today’s speech is excerpted below:

I’m both confident and excited about the future of the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the road has been perfectly smooth. Building a new market is never easy. And as I’ve said before – we expect this to be a transition period for the Marketplace. Issuers are adjusting their prices, bringing them in line with actual data on costs. And at HHS, we’re enhancing the stability of the Marketplace, and making it stronger for the future.

It also hasn’t helped that at nearly every turn, we’ve had to overcome partisan attempts to repeal and undermine the law through legislation and litigation.

These efforts would turn back the clock to the world that existed before the Affordable Care Act. In this Administration, our vision for the future isn’t a return to the bad old days. The Marketplace is a necessary piece of a sensible, market-based solution, and we can’t look backwards in a hopeless search for alternatives that aren’t viable, or just don’t exist. What we do have is an opportunity to build on our historic progress. 

But as we’ve said before – to make more substantial changes, like a public option to encourage competition, we’ll need cooperation from Congress. And we are hopeful that soon, we’ll see more bipartisan efforts to make improvements.

We’ve put our ideas on the table. We want to work together. We need a partner.

In the meantime, we will continue to work with the partners we have, to use all the tools we have to build a stronger, more stable Marketplace.

Of course, the biggest opportunity we have to strengthen the Marketplace with a bigger, healthier risk pool is right in front of us – this upcoming open enrollment. This is the last open enrollment for this Administration. We want to make it count.

As we have every year, we’ll confront some new challenges this fall. But we’re confident and excited, because we’ll enter this Open Enrollment with new strengths.

Most important, we know from three years of experience that the Marketplace offers a product people want and need. I know that there has been much talk and discussion about Marketplace rate increases this year. But headline rate changes don’t actually reflect what the vast majority of consumers will pay. Thanks to financial assistance, most people shopping on the Marketplace will still be able to find a plan for less than $75 per month. Marketplace consumers will continue to have affordable options available.

… The Affordable Care Act has helped us shape a better future. A future where our economy is stronger and millions of Americans are better off. A future where Americans like Nathan can get the coverage they need to stay healthy, so they can turn around, pay it forward, and provide care for others.

With this open enrollment, we will go even farther toward that future.