More than a million people signed up for health insurance plans on HealthCare.gov in the past week, bringing the overall total of signups for the first four weeks of the current open-enrollment period to nearly 2.5 million, the CMS announced Tuesday. Dec. 15 was the HealthCare.gov deadline to enroll for coverage to go into effect Jan. 1.
More than half of the people who enrolled between Dec. 6-12 were renewing their coverage. The number of people enrolling or re-enrolling last week was considerably higher than in previous weeks. Week one saw 500,000 enrollees, week two had 300,000 and week three saw 600,000 sign up through HealthCare.gov.
California, Maryland and Minnesota state health insurance exchanges extended their deadlines for residents to apply or renew coverage to go into effect Jan. 1. The exchanges in Idaho, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Washington already had planned later deadlines, most on Dec. 20 or Dec. 23.
To qualify for the extended deadline in California, consumers must have started their application by Monday. They'll have to pick a plan by no later than Dec. 21 to be covered by Jan. 1. This nearly weeklong extension was announced Monday afternoon at an exchange board meeting.
“We are seeing a lot of consumers coming into Covered California, and we wanted to make sure that everyone who wants coverage has that opportunity,” said Roy Kennedy, spokesman for Get Covered California.
In Minnesota, the deadline to enroll through the MNsure exchange has been extended to 4:30 p.m. CST on Dec. 20. MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said in a statement that his team extended the deadline to allow more time for Minnesotans who qualify for financial subsidies.
MNsure's call center averaged about 1,600 calls an hour Monday, according to a news release, with most callers waiting 20 minutes to talk to a representative. So far, 95% of state residents have health coverage, the exchange said.
“The demand for health insurance coverage is higher than ever before,” Leitz said. “We don't want to leave anyone behind, especially if they qualify for financial help. We're hopeful this extra week of enrollment will result in more people getting the health coverage and financial help they need.”
As several states extended signup deadlines for Jan. 1 coverage, insurers announced they are providing more time for federal exchange enrollees to pay their January premiums.
“Our community wants to do everything we can to make sure consumers have greater peace of mind about their healthcare coverage and to support them throughout the open-enrollment process,” Karen Ignagni, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement Monday.
Over the weekend, a select group of insures and consumers tested out the auto re-enrollment process with the so-called 834 forms, which had issues of their own in the past. This test produced no problems, said Kevin Counihan, CEO of HealthCare.gov.
Federal plans are underway for a special outreach campaign to the roughly 250,000 individuals whose existing plans are no longer being offered on the federal exchange for 2015, either because a given plan is no longer offered or because an individual moved to a new market, Counihan said. HHS plans to point these people in the direction of a plan that is substantially similar to the ones they've lost but they won't be auto-enrolled.
The enrollment figures released Tuesday by HHS don't include the 14 states and the District of Columbia that are handling enrollment through their own websites. It remains unclear when they'll be able to release this information. Anecdotally, the agency has heard from states that interest is high, officials said during a Tuesday press event.
The target for 2015 enrollment is 9.1 million individuals.
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