Obamacare has been under fire all year in Washington, but against all odds the start of this year's open enrollment has been business as usual. Health insurers such as Oscar Health say consumers have been actively shopping since the start of enrollment on Nov. 1.
"We definitely have seen (volumes) above projections in pretty much all the markets we're in," said Mario Schlosser, CEO of the five-year-old New York-based health insurer. "We're very happy with the first week."
Oscar is offering plans in major metropolitan markets in six states for 2018, up from three this year. Early demand for its new co-branded plan with the renowned Cleveland Clinic in Ohio has been strong.
"Of the members who've signed up in the past week, 25 percent have chosen their primary care physician through the Oscar mobile app, even before they've paid their first bill," Schlosser said.
Oscar and Cleveland Clinic are trying to be cautious.
"We're not looking for this to be too big the first year. We want to work very closely with Oscar and market this appropriately," said Steven Glass, Cleveland Clinic's chief financial officer.
But now they're bracing for potentially bigger first-year numbers than they had planned, after Anthem's exit from the Ohio exchange last summer amid uncertainty over the fate of the Affordable Care Act. And they are anticipating strong demand from enrollees with chronic conditions attracted to the health center's reputation for high-quality care.
"We expect that we're going to get some percentage of those lives coming over to our product," Glass explained.