KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Officials Announce Health Plan Sign-Ups Outpace Goals And Include 4M New Customers

The Department of Health and Human Services says 12.7 million people signed up for a policy through the health law's marketplaces during the regular enrollment season.

The New York Times: Health Care Signups Exceed Hopes, With 4 Million Newcomers To Federal Marketplace
About 12.7 million people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act or had their coverage automatically renewed in the third annual open enrollment season. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said the signups exceeded her goals and her expectations. “Open enrollment for 2016 is over, and we are happy to report it was a success,” she said. Most of the plan selections were for people in the 38 states — more than 9.6 million — who used the federal website, HealthCare.gov. The other 3.1 million people were enrolled in states that run their own marketplaces. (Pear, 2/4)

Reuters: U.S. Signs Up 12.7 Million Americans For Obamacare Health Insurance
On HealthCare.gov, about 4 million new customers signed up for plans and another 5.6 million consumers returned to buy insurance again, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters on a call. In all, about 2.7 million people aged 18 to 34 signed up for the insurance, she said. Customers who are younger tend to have fewer medical costs and are considered an important factor in creating financial stability for the private health insurers like UnitedHealth, Aetna Inc and Anthem Inc that sell these plans. (Humer, 2/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Federal Health-Care Enrollees Exceed Goals
Top administration officials said they were especially excited to see 4 million first-time users of HealthCare.gov among the total, suggesting they had done better than expected in signing up those uninsured who may have been hard to win over. “We knocked the lights out this year,” said Kevin Counihan, the chief executive officer for the federal website and head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services unit charged with implementing the health law. (Radnofsky, 2/4)

USA Today: Nearly 13 Million People Enrolled In ACA Plans For 2016
Supporters of the law were expecting an uptick in enrollment after a strong December and the typical lull over the holidays. About 700,000 people signed up in the last week of January, compared to more than 1 million in the last week of enrollment last year. Andrew Slavitt, CMS' acting adminstrator, said that was still a strong week and reflected the agency's efforts to move more of the signups into December, which allowed people to start their policies Jan. 1 and gives insurers more time to see who their new clients are. More than 60% of new enrollees signed up for Jan. 1 coverage, Burwell said. (O'Donnell, 2/4)

The Washington Post: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Grows Modestly This Year, To 12.7 Million
[T]he latest numbers provide important signs of how the exchanges, a major feature of the 2010 health-care law, are functioning now that they are no longer new. The figures show that most repeat customers heeded warnings by HHS officials that they should return to HealthCare.gov to shop for the best available health plan if they wanted to avoid sticker shock. On the federal exchange, nearly 7 in 10 repeat customers shopped for coverage rather than let the computer system renew them automatically, and about three-fifths of those switched plans. Last year, nearly half let the computer system auto-enroll them. (Goldstein, 2/4)

CNN Money: 12.7 Million Americans Sign Up For Obamacare 3.0
Some 12.7 million Americans signed up for Obamacare for 2016, according to new figures released Thursday. Sign ups exceeded the Obama administration's initial projection that 10 million people would be enrolled by year's end, though that figure was widely seen as too modest. A large chunk of those who signed up during open enrollment will drop out over the course of the year, either because they'll find insurance elsewhere or they will stop paying their premiums. (Luhby, 2/4)

The Associated Press: Obama Health Care Law Posts Respectable Sign-Up Season
Still facing political jeopardy, President Barack Obama's health care law beat expectations by earning solid sign-ups this year, according to figures released Thursday by the administration. About 12.7 million people signed up for individual private insurance policies or renewed their coverage for 2016, said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. That means Republicans running in this year's elections may find it harder to deliver on their promise of repeal, while Democrats may yet be able to tap the newly insured as a voting constituency. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/4)

Kaiser Health News: 2016 Obamacare Enrollment Tops Expectations At 12.7 Million
The annual Obamacare enrollment numbers routinely draw debate. Supporters boast that millions of people have gained coverage. Republican detractors stress millions remain uninsured because they can’t afford coverage and that not enough healthy young adults are enrolling. The latter issue threatens to make coverage uneconomical for insurers, causing them to lose money and raise prices or drop out of the exchanges. (Galewitz, 2/4)

Modern Healthcare: ACA Enrollment Pleases HHS. Insurers Will Be Tougher Crowd.
During the past several months, insurance executives and state officials have publicly griped about the state of the exchanges. UnitedHealth Group opened the charge in November when it said it may exit the ACA's marketplaces due to heavy losses. UnitedHealth, which expects to lose approximately $1 billion on its 2015 and 2016 exchange plans, blamed several elements, including what it called loose rules for special enrollments. The for-profit insurer will make a determination in the next several months. Aetna and Anthem also have voiced concerns, saying their margins are running below expectations and that the risk pool skews toward older, higher-cost patients. (Herman, 2/4)

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