The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it is seeing a major increase in the number of new customers purchasing private health insurance from the Affordable Care Act marketplace before 2023.
Nearly 3.4 million people have signed up for coverage – a 17% increase from the same time last year. The increase in enrollment comes as the number of uninsured Americans increases hit an all-time low of 8%.
“If you have a good product, people will buy it,” Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, told The Associated Press.
Since the start of open enrollment on November 1, more than 665,000 new people have purchased subscriptions from the marketplace.
HHS did not provide demographic details about the new enrollees, but Becerra said he hopes the agency reaches people in marginalized communities. This year already the market saw huge gains in the number of black, Latino, and Native Americans taking cover.
Between 2020 and 2022, the number of Latino enrollees will increase from 1.7 million to 2.6 million, while 1.3 million black people enrolled last year, up from 900,000 the year before. The number of American Indians enrolled increased from 52,000 to 68,000.
“There is a very high probability that we will continue to win over backward communities,” Becerra said.
The increase in enrollment is largely driven by generous grants – extended through 2025 in Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill — which keep monthly premium payments at $0 or just a few dollars per month for most people who sign up.
People can sign up for coverage at HealthCare.gov or through their state’s marketplace before December 15 to get coverage beginning January 1.
Experts will be watching to see if the strong start to the ACA’s open enrollment continues in the coming weeks.
“This demonstrates very solid demand for health insurance,” said Massey Whorley, director of health consulting firm Avalere. “Only time will tell if this is really outrageous significant growth, or if it’s people who are more likely to trade in the open enrollment window.”
The record-low insurance rate in the US could also be disrupted next year, when the government is expected to end the COVID-19 pandemic and remove millions of Medicaid recipients from coverage. That could drive more people into the federal market in 2023, Whorley added.
“We’re going to be looking at a period of significant change,” Whorley said. “All this indicates that more and more people are coming to the fair.”
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