Study projects flattening ObamaCare sign-ups in 2017

Study projects flattening ObamaCare sign-ups in 2017
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A new analysis projects that ObamaCare enrollment will be roughly flat or could even decline slightly next year.

The analysis from Standard & Poor's projects that between 11.7 million and 13.3 million people will sign up for ObamaCare in the enrollment period that begins Nov. 1. That is compared to 12.7 million who signed up last year. 

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That means that two years of growth in the marketplace will turn into a “significant slowdown” for 2017, the report says. 

Increasing enrollment could help ease insurer concerns about a group of enrollees, known as the risk pool, that is smaller and sicker than expected. 

But the S&P report notes that despite the expected flattening out in growth, it is not the end for the health insurance marketplaces, which started in 2013.

“Despite our expectation of a slow-down in exchange enrollment, we don't view this as ‘game over’ for the marketplace,” the report states. “As we have said previously, we expect a five-year path to stability in the exchange business.”

S&P noted that larger premium increases this year could mean that some of the 15 percent of enrollees who have too high an income to qualify for financial assistance could drop off coverage. 

Still, they noted, the financial assistance creates a “floor” for enrollment, even with premium increases. 

“Although the sticker shock of the premium increases will slow overall growth rates in 2017, continued targeted outreach, regulators' attempts to improve marketplace rules as they affect insurers, and moderation of premium rate increases beyond 2017 will likely bring growth back to the marketplace in future years,” the report says. 

The Obama administration has not yet come out with its own projections for how many people will sign up for coverage next year, though officials said Thursday that they plan to release those numbers before Nov. 1. 

And Dr. Mandy Cohen, the chief of staff for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Thursday that she expects enrollment will grow, at least some. 

“We fully expect for the market to grow over this enrollment season,” she told reporters on a conference call.

The administration says it is stepping up its outreach efforts with lessons learned from previous years and a new focus on young people and the penalty for lacking insurance.