But Dan Mendelson, CEO of the Avalere Health consultancy, said the news that more insurers are jumping into the Obamacare marketplace bodes well not only for customers on the exchange but also for the political viability of President Barack Obama's signature health-care reform law.
"The exchanges are a robust commercial market—viable in the short run and very strategic for a future that has more individual choice," Mendelson said. "Many of the plans that largely sat out the first year—like UnitedHealthcare—are diving in. The long-term stability of this program is largely defined by insurer reactions, so this is a good sign."
"It gets harder to repeal a program when it has a vibrant commercial market attached," Mendelson said.
Ceci Connolly, managing director of PriceWaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute, said, "It's clear insurers see growth opportunity in the new exchanges and are meeting the market demand for choice."
"Two other significant points – we're seeing average premium increases nationally of about 7 percent, a sure sign that competition is good for consumers," Connolly said. "And second, with attention turning to the private exchanges that will open for employers in the coming years, HRI recently reported that 32 percent of employers are considering shifting their employees to exchange-based health coverage. All evidence that exchanges will be an enduring part of the developing new health economy."
Larry Levitt, an Obamacare expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation, on his Twitter account responded to the news: "With more insurers selling in ACA marketplaces, the law has passed the viability test. Logistical challenges remain."
Those logistical challenges include an ongoing re-vamp of HealthCare.gov's enrollment technology, which has some experts worried that the federal Web site will not run smoothly when open enrollment resumes Nov. 15.
And that site still has yet to build a so-called "back end," whose technology is supposed to run calculations for financial programs that are designed to minimize the risk insurers face by covering people through exchange-sold plans.
This season's open-enrollment period will end Feb. 15, and be about three months shorter than Obamacare's first season.
About 8.1 million people selected Obamacare plans by the end of open enrollment this past mid-April. But after several months, during which many of them failed to pay their first month's premium or dropped out for other reasons, and when others enrolled during a special enrollment period, there ended up being 7.3 million people currently enrolled in such plans, HHS said last week.