UPDATE (Dec 17): CMS just released its latest estimates for the 2016 OEP enrollment. The updated figures show that about 6 million people had purchased plans through the Federal Marketplace. By this point in 2014, only 3.4 million had signed up. In addition, the agency found that 2.4 million of these plan purchases were from new, previously uninsured consumers; this is one-third higher than 2014’s rate.
Obamacare’s Jan. 1 coverage deadline extended due to high demand
Faced with a wave of consumer demand, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an extension for a key 2016 Open Enrollment Period (OEP) deadline. Previously, for plans to begin on Jan. 1, 2016, enrolment had to be completed by Dec. 15, 2015. But this extension moved the deadline to 11:59 p.m. (PST) on Dec. 17, providing new and existing consumers with additional time to make their plan selections.
This was essential, as Week 6 (Dec. 6-12) alone saw more than 1.3 million Americans enroll in plans – including 500,000 new consumers — through the Federal Marketplace and CuidadoDeSalud.gov (for Spanish speakers). In total, 4,171,714 million Americans signed up by this point.
The OEP, which began on Nov. 1, actually runs through Jan. 31, so there is still time for enrollment. But consumers face two important enrollment deadlines: 1.) Jan. 15, for a Feb.1, 2016 coverage start date; 2.) Jan. 31, for a March 1, 2016 start date. Should enrollment not be completed by Jan. 31, 2016, consumers may face IRS-imposed penalties; specifically, the greater of:
- $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, up to $2,085 per family
- 5 percent of your income above the tax filing threshold
Beyond the extension, the CMS encouraged consumers to contact their call centers or use their websites. These efforts seem to be paying off, as by Dec. 15, hundreds of thousands had selected plans. Another million consumers left their contact information to reserve their places in line.
The CMS’ weekly Open Enrollment snapshots provide updated estimates of plan selections, call center activity and website visits. These figures may vary, due to plan changes or cancellations involving life changes (e.g., marriage, divorce, childbirth). Additionally, the snapshots factor in new plan selections, active plan renewals and auto-renewals, not the number of consumers paying their premiums.
The Dec. 15 deadline only applied to certain states utilizing the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces. A number of state-run exchanges have their own enrollment extensions for coverage to begin on Jan. 1, 2016. And, in some states, specific health insurance carriers offer members their own extensions.
“We’re obviously pleased,” said Andy Slavitt, the CMS’ acting administrator. “It’s clear now that many people have been waiting to purchase coverage until this enrollment cycle.” These enrollment numbers will further increase, as many existing consumers’ plans are automatically re-enrolled for 2016. In addition, the updated figures don’t include the enrollment numbers for state-run exchanges and the District of Columbia.