With the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act closing in a few days for most states, sign-ups are still down nearly 20% compared to the same period last year, according to the Associated Press. Enrollment in health insurance plans provided by the ACA, also known as Obamacare, is down despite stable premiums, a wider array of available plans, and millions of Americans still living without healthcare coverage.
It remains to be seen if more people will sign up in the next few days. 2018’s enrollment was down, with 11.8 million Americans enrolled, about 400,000 fewer than in 2017. About 10 million individuals who signed up last year remain enrolled, and roughly 12 million low-income individuals are covered through a Medicaid expansion of the ACA.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cut the ACA advertising budget by almost 90% last year, which could explain part of why fewer new people are enrolling in the federally subsidized coverage. HHS said the budget cut was due to higher ad spending but lower enrollment.
Under the Trump Administration, the ACA has been weakened, as the President has eliminated the individual mandate penalty. That means anyone insured going into 2019 won’t suffer a financial penalty. President Trump also made it possible for people to sign up for “short-term health plans,” which may have lower premiums but not provide the same coverage as ACA plans.
The deadline to enroll for 2019 ACA coverage is Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Coverage will take effect beginning on Jan. 1, 2019.