Sign-up rates for Obamacare health coverage have fallen 11 percent from the same time last year, but at least part of the decline is being attributed to something good.
More Americans are getting their health insurance from employers thanks to the tightest U.S. labor market in nearly 50 years, health policy experts say. Low unemployment rates, at 3.7 percent in October, mean fewer people need to buy insurance on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges, they say.
President Donald Trump's changes to the ACA are still being blamed for a lot of the drop. It's the first enrollment season since Congress repealed the so-called individual mandate, a key part of former President Barack Obama's health-care law. The mandate imposed a tax on the uninsured to persuade people to buy insurance instead of paying a penalty.
The repeal of the federal mandate last December, along with Trump's push for cheaper, less comprehensive short-term health plans and a substantial slash in outreach funding, was expected to damper ACA enrollment rates this year.
Consumers still have another week to sign up, so researchers can't draw any hard conclusions until the final numbers are in.
Policy experts are also taking a close look at states such as New Jersey, which enacted its own individual mandate in May. As of Dec. 1, the Garden State saw enrollment numbers down 13 percent compared with the same time last year, according to figures released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.