Last Friday, federal health officials revealed that total sign-ups on HealthCare.gov were at 9.2 million — 400,000 or so fewer than last year's tally.
It was the first time a drop was seen in enrollment on HealthCare.gov, and the first time that a dip will be seen nationally for Obamacare sign-ups. Because of HealthCare.gov's drop, national enrollment, after factoring in the 3 million or so state-based exchange enrollees, likely will be around 12.2 million or so.
The decline on the federal exchange was cited by a spokesman for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department as evidence that Obamacare isn't working. HHS runs HealthCare.gov.
"Obamacare has failed the American people, with one broken promise after another," that spokesman said as the numbers were released.
But state-run marketplaces have released numbers that could tell a different story, at least when looked at cumulatively.
Washington state reported that enrollment was up more than 12 percent over last year. Colorado's tally jumped by more than 14 percent.
And enrollment in Massachusetts surged by nearly a whopping 24 percent. That rise is stunning, particularly because Massachusetts for years has had a relatively high percentage of residents covered by health insurance.
New York's exchange reported a nearly 11 percent drop in sign-ups. But that decline was more than offset by a 75 percent increase in the number of residents enrolled in basic health plans, which are not counted toward Obamacare enrollment. Maryland's site dropped 2.8 percent.
Connecticut on Tuesday reported that enrollment on its exchange was down by almost 4 percent. But the District of Columbia's exchange, which covers far fewer people than Connecticut's, grew by more than 4 percent, DC announced Tuesday.
On Monday, California's exchange released a statement sayings sign-ups would be more than 1.5 million. On Tuesday, the exchange told CNBC that the actual tally was 1.56 million — a 1.2 percent drop in sign-ups compared to last year. An exchange spokesman said the number was "no surprise" given that the head of the marketplace last spring said it had reached "a cruising altitude."
Other states have yet to report their final tallies, although Minnesota's exchange three weeks ago already was nearly 28 percent ahead of last year's sign-up tally.
ACASignup.net's tracking of previously disclosed numbers and newly disclosed numbers by the 12 state-based markets shows that enrollment is already up 2 percent over last year, with 3.02 million sign-ups.
Larry Levitt, an Obamacare expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the difference in outcomes on HealthCare.gov and the state marketplaces likely reflect the effects of messaging around enrollment.
"While the Trump administration pulled outreach ads as the open-enrollment period ended, state marketplaces were continuing to market to potential new enrollees," Levitt said. "With so much churn in the insurance market as people's circumstances change, constant outreach is necessary to keep enrollment up."
Levitt also said, "There has been enormous uncertainty about the future of the ACA following the election. The messages out of Washington were that the law will be repealed quickly and replaced."
"State-based marketplaces were able to communicate with potential enrollees in a clearer and more nuanced way about their options with the law's benefits and requirements still in place."
Timothy Jost, a health law professor at the Washington & Lee School of Law, also believes the differences in outreach strategies in the final days of enrollment made a difference.
But, "A larger factor might be the overall environment," Jost said.
"The states tend to be favorable to the ACA generally. My impression is that the largest enrollment drops were in very red states such as Texas where hostility to the ACA is more widespread," he said.
Jost also that the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on his first day in office, which authorized federal officials to scale back Obamacare rules, might have played a role.
"The executive order was interpreted, incorrectly, by some to mean that the individual mandate would no longer be enforced," Jost said, referring to the Obamacare requirement that most Americans have some form of health coverage or pay a tax penalty.
"I wonder if these reports were more widespread, or more widely believed in more conservative states?" Jost said. "Indeed, repeal, either by the Trump administration or Congress, may well have seemed more of a certainty, and more likely to occur quickly, in redder states. Why enroll if there was no legal requirement and the law would disappear quickly in any event?"