The Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), commonly called Obamacare, had a decrease in enrollment for the 2018 calendar year. Yes, it takes up until April to get the final enrollment numbers for this year. There were a total of 11.8 million people that have applied, a decrease of over 400,000. The monthly premiums increased to $621 per month for 2018 plans from $476 last year…boy I wish my insurance was only $621 month! As that amounts factors in families with kids, etc. and not individual policies like mine.
Now the way the ACA works is some policies get renewed and others are signed up by first time “users” of the health insurance. As far as new enrollees or first time customers, that number is 3.9 million with 7.9 million being renewals. The number of new customers was 27%, down from 31% in 2017. So new Obamacare policies have decreased slightly. Some of those 400,000 may have signed up for private health insurance outside of Obamacare.
There were applications from all age groups as well. There were still younger people who enrolled into Obamacare, so it was not all older and/or “sick” people who may have caused an even bigger spike in premiums. As recall that Obamacare works best when both younger, healthier workers enroll as well as older, sick ones.
Is this good or bad news for 2018 ACA plans?
Many experts say the decrease of 400,000 for 2018 is actually good news. As the Republican lead administration not only cut back on advertising for the ACA, but they also shortened the application window. Therefore people actually had fewer days to enroll this year as opposed to the past. So the 400,000 decline was less than many experts feared.
The percentage of applicants under the age of 35 did come down a little. There was a decrease of about 5% in their enrollment levels. That too can be considered good news as it should ideally hold down the cost of premiums in future years; experts thought even fewer younger people would enroll.
On the flip side, applicants over the age of 55 (who tend to have higher medical needs) had a slight uptick in demand for 2018, though that was not as great as feared either. While older people will lead to higher Obamacare health plan premiums in the future, the fact the increase was not as great as feared may also be thought of as a positive.
As we noted above, the monthly premiums are now at $621 a month, which is a 30% increase from 2017. That is terrible news. A 30% increase is unsustainable. Most American households are being priced out of the private health insurance marketplace as we have reported, and another 30% increase for next year will cause major difficulties. More people are asking whether they should get health insurance, and they taking the chance of going without health insurance.
The bottom line is the news is mixed. Enrollment numbers of 11.8 million were better than expected as well as the mix of old and new people. But even though people younger than 35 still signed up, the 30% monthly increase in health plan costs will not work over the long term. That is bad news for Americans and the future of Obamacare.