Big boost from 2015
Sign-ups running nearly 25 percent above last year.
With uncertainty looming over the future of American health care, thousands more Coloradans have signed up for health insurance on the state’s Obamacare exchange this year compared with the same time last year, according to new numbers released Thursday.
Through November, 37,948 people — nearly a 25 percent increase — had signed up for medical and dental insurance plans on Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s exchange. In November 2015, 30,777 people signed up.
Early November — a period that coincided with both the start of open enrollment and the presidential election — saw especially strong numbers, with 30 percent more sign-ups than in the same period in 2015. While Republicans have vowed to repeal or significantly amend Obamacare in a President Donald Trump administration, health insurance plans signed up for now cannot be canceled midyear. Financial assistance, including tax credits, to help cover premiums for plans sold on the exchange will also remain in place for at least a year.
“We know that there is a lot of discussion now about the future direction of health care,” Kevin Patterson, the CEO of Connect for Health Colorado, said in a statement, “but what remains constant and true is the importance of protecting the health and financial future of all Coloradans.”
Emily Johnson, a policy and statistical analyst at the Colorado Health Institute, said the election may have a little something to do with the increased enrollment. But more likely, she said, is that Connect for Health Colorado is making further progress in signing up people eligible for tax credits, especially now that the tax penalty for not having insurance has fully taken effect.
In 2014, there were 254,000 people in Colorado eligible to receive tax credits to help pay for coverage, but only 72,000 of them had signed up, Johnson said.
Total sign-ups for Connect for Health plans have increased every year since the exchange’s first openenrollment period in 2013. Enrollment jumped 19 percent during last year’s open-enrollment period.
“My guess is Connect for Health is just kind of chipping away at that number,” Johnson said.
Colorado’s surge in enrollment this year mirrors that nationally. More than 2.1 million people have so far signed up for plans on HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare marketplace for people in the 39 states that did not set up their own exchanges. That is nearly 100,000 more people than who signed up during the same period in 2015. More than 300,000 people signed up on HealthCare.gov this year in the three days after the election.
Open enrollment on Connect for Health Colorado runs through Jan. 31, 2017. Consumers, though, have only until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage that kicks in Jan. 1.
Once open enrollment is closed, only people who experience a “lifechanging event” — such as a marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, or the loss of employer-sponsored insurance — can sign up through the exchange.