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2015 ObamaCare enrollment falls slightly short of target

The number of ObamaCare enrollees at the end of 2015 fell about 3.5 percent below the administration’s target, according to government figures released Friday. 

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The administration’s target was for 9.1 million people to have “effectuated” coverage at the end of 2015, meaning they were paying their premiums. However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday that 8.8 million people were enrolled at the end of the year instead. 

That is a drop of almost 25 percent compared to the 11.7 million people who were signed up at the beginning of 2015. 

Officials noted that enrollment at the end of 2015 was still about 40 percent higher than the year before and that ObamaCare has helped cut the uninsured rate to a record low of under 10 percent. Recent administration figures show 20 million people have gained coverage because of the law.

Caroline Pearson, a healthcare expert at Avalere Health, a consulting firm, wrote that the dropoff called for study. 

Some dropoff is natural, as people find coverage elsewhere. HHS noted that 2.7 million jobs were created last year, so more people could have switched to coverage through their employers. 

But the department also noted that “data matching” issues, when people’s immigration or income documentation does not match federal databases, led to some people’s coverage being canceled. 

The enrollment dropoff “likely also reflects a significant increase in data matching issues,” HHS said. 

The department said that coverage was terminated for 500,000 people with citizenship or immigration data issues in 2015. Another 1.2 million consumers had their financial assistance adjusted.

HHS noted that it has recently made improvements to the online application and notices that it sends to consumers in a bid to cut down on people losing coverage because of documentation issues. 

The 8.8 million enrollees at the end of 2015 does not account for people who signed up in the latest enrollment period for 2016 coverage. There were 12.7 million enrollees for 2016 coverage, though that number is also expected to drop some.