Since February, when the Biden government reopened the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces, two million Americans have signed up for coverage, health officials said Wednesday.
The total number of enrollments in Obamacare marketplaces is now at a record high, although final numbers are not yet available, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters in a call. The previous high was 12.7 million Americans who chose plans in 2016.
Enrollment in Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor and the disabled, has also hit a record high. A total of 81 million Americans were covered by Medicaid in February, the most recent month with full data.
The increases reflect growing demand for insurance coverage during the pandemic, when many Americans lost their job-related insurance coverage or became more concerned about not staying insured. But they also reflect major policy changes this year: Congress passed a bill that significantly lowers insurance prices for almost all Americans who buy their own insurance.
“A lot of Americans are on the sidelines – trying to see if they can afford this coverage,” said Xavier Becerra, secretary for health and human services. “If you give them this opportunity, they’ll sign up.”
This is the first recession since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a law in 2010 designed in part to provide a safety net for Americans who do not get health insurance through their jobs. This law now looks safer than ever after weathering a third legitimacy challenge in the Supreme Court last month.
In addition to the new money, the Biden administration has opened the doors for new enrollments and aggressively advertised the opportunities. People are typically only allowed to sign up for ACA coverage for a short period in the fall. Citing the pandemic, Biden administration officials have set a much longer filing deadline this year. Registrations reopened in mid-February and will remain available until August 15th.
The government also paid for the marketing to get the word out about the extended enrollment deadline and new subsidies.
Although ACA markets have become more stable in recent years, Trump administration officials have taken fewer steps to encourage Americans to seek cover. They cut funding for public relations and advertising and shortened the enrollment period than under the Obama administration.