Last spring, then-HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that more than 8 million Americans enrolled in health insurance through the Obamacare Health Insurance Marketplace during its inaugural open-enrollment period. With 2015 open enrollment approaching, many have sought updated figures, especially the law’s critics.On Sept. 18, Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Mediaid Services, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that, as of Aug. 15, 7.3 million Americans remain enrolled in Obamacare and have paid their premiums. This figure accounts for private health insurance enrollees only. In May 2014, HHS reported an additional 4.8 million additional Medicaid and CHIP enrollments; however, Medicaid and CHIP enrollment lasts year-round.
The latest enrollment numbers still exceed the Obama Administration’s initial projection of 6 million enrollees. They also tell us that at least 700,000 Americans dropped their Obamacare plans for one reason or another. At this point there is no study or research telling us why thousands dropped their exchange coverage.
Reasons may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Failure to pay monthly premiums
- Obtaining health insurance coverage through another source—becoming eligible for job-based coverage, joining a spouse’s job-based plan, etc.
- Moving to another state and then enrolling in a non-exchange plan or failing to enroll at all
- Inability to afford coverage due to job or income loss
The figure announced by Tavenner was based on the number of people who had paid-up coverage last month, reported The Wall Street Journal, which quoted the CMS administrator as saying she was “encouraged” by the number and later called it “really strong.”
How to switch or leave your health insurance plan
Consumers may only change health plans during open enrollment. There is an exception, however. Those with qualifying life events such as a divorce, adoption or birth of a child, job loss, marriage or move may switch coverage through a special enrollment period that lasts 60 days from when the event occurred. It is unknown how many individuals have changed plans or obtained coverage through special enrollment in 2014.
To find out if you are eligible for a special enrollment period, check with your state’s health insurance exchange or contact a carrier or health insurance agent in the private marketplace through a website such as HealthCare.com.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans may experience a single period of up to three months without health insurance each year unless they qualify for an exemption due to financial hardship or other reasons.
The next open-enrollment period is scheduled to start Nov. 15 and last through Feb. 15, 2015.
 Condon, Stephanie. “Administration Updates Obamacare Enrollment Figures.” CBS News. Sept. 18, 2014. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/administration-adjusts-obamacare-enrollment-figures/.  U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace Totals Over 8 Million People [Press Release].” HHS.gov. May 1, 2014. http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2014pres/05/20140501a.html.  Radnofsky, Louise. “Obama Administration Says 7.3 Million Who Picked Health Plans on Exchanges Have Paid Premiums.” The Wall Street Journal. Sept. 18, 2014. http://online.wsj.com/articles/obama-administration-says-7-3-million-who-picked-health-plans-on-exchanges-have-paid-premiums-1411058425?KEYWORDS=medicare.