ObamaCare signups surge in early days to set new record

A record number of people signed up for ObamaCare in the first few days of open enrollment this year compared to the same period in previous years, several sources close to the process told The Hill.

The surge in sign-ups, which was confirmed by an administration official, comes despite fears from Democrats that enrollment would fall off due to the Trump administration's cutbacks in outreach and advertising. 

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On the first day of enrollment alone, Nov. 1, one source close to the process told The Hill that more than 200,000 people selected a plan for 2018, compared with about 100,000 last year. More than 1 million people visited healthcare.gov that day, compared to about 750,000 last year, the source said.

It is still early in the process and it is unclear how the final sign-up numbers will come out. Sign-ups early in the enrollment season are often people renewing their coverage, not new enrollees. 

Standard & Poor’s forecasted last week that enrollment could drop by as much as 1.6 million people below last year’s level of 12.2 million signups, in part due to uncertainty from the administration's actions. 

The enrollment period is also about half as long this year, ending Dec. 15.

But the spike in sign-ups is some positive news for supporters of the health-care law who have been worrying about its fate under Republican control of Washington.

“The first few days of Open Enrollment for the Federal Health Insurance Exchange went smoothly," said a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the health-care law. "The website performed optimally and consumers easily accessed enrollment tools to compare plans and prices."

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan said in a speech last week that the administration wants the sign-up period to be "as consumer friendly as possible."

The administration cut the outreach budget by 90 percent and cut back on grants to outside groups, called navigators, that help people enroll.