Enrollment on the federal Obamacare marketplace hit nearly 2.3 million people in the first three weeks of the sign-up season for individual health plans, officials said Wednesday.
That tally beats by almost 900,000 people — or 64 percent — the number of customers who signed up during the first four weeks of enrollment in 2016 on the marketplace, HealthCare.gov.
But it remains to be seen whether the faster pace of enrollments seen so far on HealthCare.gov will be enough to beat the exchange's final 9.2 million person sign-up tally for last season.
This sign-up season on that marketplace, which serves people in 39 states, ends Dec. 15 — half of the enrollment window for last season. However, the deadline for sign-ups is later in most of the remaining states, which operate their own Obamacare exchanges, and which separately report sign-up tallies.
In addition to worrying about the shorter enrollment period, Obamacare advocates fear that negative comments about the Affordable Care Act program by the Trump administration will tamp down sign-ups this season.
Almost 800,000 people selected an Obamacare plan that takes effect Jan. 1 on HealthCare.gov, during the week running from Nov. 12 through last Saturday, officials said.
That was a drop off of 77,000 people from the pace of the prior week.
Most of the customers who have signed up for coverage on HealthCare.gov so far — 1.71 million of them — are returning customers. The remaining 566,042 people are new customers.
Last week, 578,506 customers renewed coverage, and 220,323 new customers selected plans.
The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have some form of health coverage during the year or pay a tax penalty.
HealthCare.gov and the state-run exchanges were created to sell coverage to people who do not have insurance through a job, Medicare, Medicaid or other sources.
Most potential customers of the Obamacare marketplace have low or moderate incomes, which qualify them for subsidies that reduce their monthly costs of coverage.
Get America Covered, an Obamacare advocacy group founded by former health officials in the Obama administration, said, "Another week of record-breaking enrollment numbers shows that there continues to be strong demand for affordable health insurance through the ACA marketplaces."
"Average daily new consumer enrollment is 45% higher and returning consumer enrollment is 41% higher than last year," group co-founder Joshua Peck wrote in a Medium.com article on the tally. "Because of the shortened enrollment period, even more new people will need to sign up in the final three weeks for a comparable number to sign up this year as signed up last year."
"Technically, this is the halfway point between November 1st and the December 15 deadline; however, because enrollment ramps up as we get closer to the deadline, the halfway point for enrollments will be around December 4. Last year 2.95 million had enrolled by December 4th out of the 6.1 million total who enrolled through December 17."
Correction: The Obamacare enrollment tally beats by almost 900,000 people — or 64 percent — the number of customers who signed up during the first four weeks of enrollment in 2016. An earlier version misstated the percentage.