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Obamacare enrollments are way up in Trump's first sign-up season

  • Enrollment rates in Obamacare plans were sharply higher in the first days of this open enrollment compared with last year.
  • This sign-up season is the first full one under the Trump administration, which opposes Obamacare.
  • Advocates for Obamacare fear that cuts to outreach efforts and other Trump actions will depress overall enrollment this year.
An insurance agent from Sunshine Life and Health Advisors, speaks with a woman shopping for insurance under the Affordable Care Act at a store setup in the Mall of Americas on November 1, 2017 in Miami, Florida.
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An insurance agent from Sunshine Life and Health Advisors, speaks with a woman shopping for insurance under the Affordable Care Act at a store setup in the Mall of Americas on November 1, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

The rate of enrollment in Obamacare health insurance plans was sharply higher in the first week of sign-ups compared with last year, official data released Thursday show.

The data confirm earlier reports that there was a big upsurge in consumer demand for individual insurance plans on the first day of open enrollment, Nov. 1, the first season under the Obamacare-opposing Trump administration.

The number released Thursday suggests that consumer demand for Obamacare plans almost doubled over last year in the first days of enrollment. But it remains to be seen if that pace will continue.

A total of 601,462 people in the first four days of open enrollment selected a plan on HealthCare.gov, the federal Obamacare exchange that serves much of the United States, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

A total of 464,140 customers renewed coverage, and 137,322 new consumers selected a plan on HealthCare.gov.

CMS did not release data for the first four days of open enrollment for last season for comparison with the new data.

However, a CMS release in November 2016 said that in the first two weeks of open enrollment for that month there were 1,008,218 plan selections on HealthCare.gov.

Those two weeks encompassed just 12 days of actual enrollment, given the way CMS measures sign-up periods.

That means that each four-day period last year in the first weeks of open enrollment saw about 336,000 sign-ups on average.

The first four days of sign-ups this year was 1.79 times as much as that tally.

Data released by CMS on Thursday and last November does not include enrollments on the dozen Obamacare marketplaces run by individual states and the District of Columbia.

California's exchange, the largest state-run Obamacare marketplace, said its enrollment business was about 25 percent higher on the first day of sign-ups this year compared with last year.

Maryland's exchange had 70 percent higher enrollment on the first day.

Lori Lodes, a former top CMS official, said the data released Thursday "is a great start to open enrollment and is further evidence that people want health insurance and that they're finding coverage they can afford."

"The administration has caused a lot of anxiety for people over the last year when it comes to health care but there's also been a more in-depth conversation about what Obamacare really is about," said Lodes, co-founder of Get America Covered, an enrollment advocacy group.

"So when most people logged onto HealthCare.gov they found plans that are more affordable than they expected."

Obamacare advocates like Lodes have feared that the Trump administration's hostility to the Affordable Care Act will lead to a marked decrease in the final enrollment tally relative to last year, particularly because of a sharp decrease in outreach budgets. There is also a much shorter sign-up window this year compared with last year in much of the country.

Open enrollment ends Dec. 15 in states served by HealthCare.gov.

Most other states have longer enrollment periods, but all will end by late January.

The ACA requires most Americans to have some form of health coverage during the year or pay a fine that can be as much as 2.5 percent of household income.