The final Obamacare enrollment tally still isn’t in, but so far the number of sign-ups has fallen sharply in a handful of states.
The total enrollment in the federal marketplace came in at 9.2 million, a noticeable drop from 2016’s 9.6 million. The decline is especially marked given that enrollment was running slightly higher in mid-January than at the same point during the previous sign-up period.Georgia had the largest slump — 93,965 fewer people signed up for Obamacare plans in the state than at the end of last year’s enrollment period in Jan. 2016. Ten states had their totals decrease by over 20,000 people, with the next largest drops in Texas (78,918), North Carolina (64,329), Missouri (45,819), and a whopping decline in Louisiana (70,571), which constituted almost a third of 2016’s total enrollment.
Sign-ups also dropped by over 10 percent in Tennessee (12.9 percent), Indiana (11 percent), Mississippi (18.5 percent) and Alaska (16 percent). On the other hand, few states saw significant increases. Utah boosted enrollment by 12.2 percent with 21,550 selections; Florida by just .98 percent with an extra 17,206.
Obama administration officials have noted that activity on Obamacare exchanges has been the highest during the final days before the deadline, leading some to argue that the Trump administration’s decision to forgo additional Obamacare advertising in the last days before the deadline could have had depressed interest in the health law’s marketplaces.
Congressional Republicans highlighted the law’s growing premiums in response to the downturn.
“Whether families can and will pay the 25 percent average increase over last year for benchmark plans remains in question,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said. “Either way, enrollment numbers are down and costs are up. These cost hikes are exactly the reason why Republicans are committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
A number of the states where American interest waned the most over the past year are reliably red, where Republican-controlled state governments would most leave HealthCare.gov outreach efforts to the federal government. That’s not the case in Louisiana, however, which had the largest percentage drop of any state, with 32.9 percent fewer sign-ups than last year.
Louisiana moved to expand Medicaid under Obamacare in 2016, suggesting that part of the state’s precipitous decline in the number of residents purchasing private plans have newly qualified for Medicaid under widened eligibility requirements. The state’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has supported Obamacare in the past and recently urged congressional Republicans to preserve the health care law’s Medicaid expansion in any replacement.
But even in states that run their own marketplaces, typically a sign of increased state-level support of Obamacare, enrollment tallies are varying so far. While New York saw a net decline in those signing up for private plans, Washington state had its largest year yet.
For HealthCare.gov customers alone, about 3 million of the 9.2 million who selected private plans were new customers — down from 4 million new customers in 2016. Axios also notes that the number of sign-ups during the final weeks of the enrollment period were drastically lower than in 2016. Between Jan. 15 and Jan. 31, 2017, just 376,260 people selected plans; from Jan. 24 to Jan. 31, 2016, enrollment reached 686,708.
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