The latest 2018 Affordable Care Act (ACA) signup numbers are out and, holy cow, things are still going well.
Two weeks into open enrollment, 1,478,250 Americans have selected a health plan on federal marketplace Healthcare.gov. This time last year, 1,008,218 had done so.
That means 470,032 more Americans have signed up for health insurance thus far this year versus last, putting 2018 open enrollment up by over 40%. Moreover, the exchange has more new customers. Here's a side-by-side comparision of the 2018 and 2017 numbers released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
What does this mean?
Honestly, it's too soon to tell. Federal open enrollment is much shorter this year than last year. Healthcare.gov closes on Dec. 15, while in 2017, it stayed open until Jan. 31. With less time to sign up, more people may simply be shopping early as opposed to just shopping in general.
Still, it's noteworthy enrollment isn't down, given efforts by Republicans and the Trump administration to undermine the law. Those efforts, you may recall, include the shortened enrollment window, repeated repeal attempts, a slashed advertising budget, the cut of a key Obamacare subsidy and provision rollbacks via executive order.
A robust open enrollment period won't do much to change Obamacare this year, but it would signal the law isn't death-spiraling. And, should the ACA last another year, it could encourage insurers to offer plans and/or lower premiums for 2019.
Of course, that's a big if, as GOP lawmakers appear intent on overturning the legislation. Senate Republicans told reporters just yesterday they would attempt to overturn the ACA's individual mandate as part of their tax bill. That mandate stipulates Americans buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Without it, healthy people might skip coverage — and the exact opposite of what we just described would happen down the line: More insurers would pull out of the market and premiums would skyrocket for sick people who need care.
The individual mandate, however, isn't the only reason to buy health insurance, given illness and injury can befall anyone at anytime. And given Bronze plans are currently going for $0 in certain states, the current political climate shouldn't keep you from comparison-shopping the exchange. We've got tips for finding affordable health care in 2018 here.