The ACA Health Insurance Exchanges ("Marketplaces") closed for general enrollment on March 31, and the sign-up numbers have been announced. Here's a look at the numbers, and why this is significant.
7.1 Million Sign Up for Individual Health Insurance Through ACA Marketplaces
According to government officials, 7.1 million Americans signed up for individual health insurance coverage through the ACA's Health Insurance Marketplaces during the first open enrollment period (October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014).
Seven (7) million was the original target set by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for enrollment in the new public Marketplaces, though the estimation was revised to 6 million after a rocky roll-out of the federally-run Marketplace HealthCare.gov.
Additional sign-ups will be trickling in over the next few weeks. Last week, the Obama Administration announced they would grant extra time to Americans who say they tried, but were unable to enroll in a health plan through HealthCare.gov by the March 31st open enrollment deadline.
What remains to be seen is the number of Americans who signed up for a plan and paid their first month's premium. Only those who pay their first month's premium are considered enrolled, while those who don't pay will have their policy canceled.
Why 7.1 Million Sign-Ups is Significant
Regardless of whether you approve, disapprove, or are neutral on ObamaCare - the number of Americans who have signed up for individual health insurance over the last few months is significant.
A year ago, if you asked employees or clients about individual health insurance you would probably get a blank stare. Now, individual health insurance (and health insurance in general) is becoming dinner conversation.
More Americans than ever before are purchasing health insurance outside of work. The market is shifting from group-based health insurance to individually-based health insurance. In 2011, only 14 million Americans were covered by an individual health plan. This number is expected to grow to 31 million by 2020 (source).
Enrolling in Coverage Now that Open Enrollment is Closed
If employees or clients missed the initial open enrollment period, they might still be able to apply for individual health insurance coverage - if they qualify for a special enrollment period (see a list of qualifying events here). Special enrollment periods generally last 60 days after a qualifying event.
If employees or clients do not have a qualifying event that makes them eligible for a special enrollment period, they will have to wait until the 2015 open enrollment period starts again in the fall to purchase or change their health plan. The open enrollment period for 2015 begins on November 15, 2014 and will end on February 15, 2015.