CBO lowers estimated ObamaCare sign-ups by 40 percent

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ObamaCare will enroll significantly fewer people than expected in 2016, ending the year with about 13 million customers, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Monday.

The figure, which was included in an expansive budget report, is a decline of about 40 percent from last year’s enrollment prediction of about 20 million people.

The latest projections confirm the Obama administration’s previous assessment that fewer people are signing up as the marketplace closes in on its third enrollment season — the final one under President Obama.

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The new report also underscores the challenges facing the incoming administration in reducing the uninsured rate after 2017. While the healthcare law has led to a historic low in the uninsured population, officials have struggled to further reduce that figure this year. 

Federal health officials had already warned that they were expecting fewer sign-ups this year, a disclosure that caused tremors among insurance companies that remain anxious about the marketplace overall.

Many of the uninsured people who opt out of coverage on the exchanges are now expected to purchase insurance “directly from an insurer instead,” the CBO said.

The smaller enrollment tally will not likely mean a substantial decrease in costs, however.

Though it predicts fewer customers, the budget office says the number of people receiving subsidies will be higher than expected. About 11 million people are expected to receive subsidies this year, compared to 8 million people in 2015.

And while healthcare spending has grown more slowly in the last several years, the CBO is projecting that per-person spending on healthcare programs “will grow more rapidly than it has in recent years.”

The cost of subsidies alone is expected to increase by $18 billion in 2016, reaching a total of $56 billion, and doubling that within a decade.

In March of 2015, the CBO estimated about 11 million people would get coverage through the exchanges by the end of the year.

The enrollment total turned out to be 9.5 million, according to Monday’s report. About 8 million of those customers received subsidies.

Spending on the healthcare marketplace is expected to rise to $56 billion next year, up from $38 billion this year. Within a decade, that total is expected to double to $109 billion.