HHS announced last week that 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health coverage through the Obamacare exchanges, exceeding the Congressional Budget Office's original estimate of 7.1 million. What's gotten less attention is the large number of people who have signed up for coverage outside the exchanges, either directly with health plans or through brokers.
While the federal government hasn't released any totals, a new study by the RAND Corp. estimates that 7.8 million people enrolled outside the exchanges between November and mid-March and that 94% previously had coverage.
America's Health Insurance Plans complained in a letter to the CMS that the option of signing up directly with insurers hasn't been more prominently featured on the HealthCare.gov website.
The exchanges' technological problems likely contributed to the sizable off-exchange enrollment. Quincy, Mass.-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care said it added 11,000 members in Maine and New Hampshire for coverage that kicked in at the start of 2014, even though it did not participate in the exchanges. “We were getting inundated with telephone calls from frustrated individuals who believed they were eligible for subsidies but didn't have any reasonable method for getting enrolled,” said Eric Schultz, the plan's president and CEO.