After record-breaking traffic to HealthCare.gov last week, more than 8.2 million people have up for health insurance that begins Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act. About 29% are new enrollees.
That compares to about 6.4 million enrollees at this time last year, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Tuesday in a conference call with ACA supporters. Also, she said, more young people are signing up than in previous years,
“We have never seen this level of activity at the call center or on HealthCare.gov before,” she said. “This engagement is just what we want to see.”
The 8.2 million enrollment figure does not include enrollment for the 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, that run their own exchanges, which include California and New York.
The busiest day was Dec. 15, the original deadline for January coverage before HHS extended the deadline by two days to accommodate what it called “unprecedented” demand.
Burwell said 600,000 people enrolled that day. At the busiest time, about 11 consumers were enrolled every second.
About 2.1 million of the enrollees are under 35, which is up about 1 million from last year. Their participation is crucial because younger, healthier people help create better overall risk pools. Higher-than-expected medical costs prompted UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. insurer, to publicly second-guess its decision to enter the new markets.
Burwell said an improved customer experience on the website as well as higher fines for not having coverage likely contributed to the surge in signups.
People who go without coverage in 2016 will have to pay 2.5% of their annual household income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child without insurance, whichever is greater.
HHS has predicted about 10 million people will have signed up for insurance after this open enrollment period, which ends Jan. 31.
Officials also HHS also said Tuesday that about 9.3 million people had active marketplace policies and had paid their premiums as of the end of September. This number, reflecting so-called effectuated enrollment, is projected to be about 9.1 million at the end of the year.
About 84% of consumers with active coverage as of Sept. 30 received premium tax credits, which averaged $271 a month.