(Adds background, Families USA comment)
Feb 3 More than 9.2 million U.S. consumers
signed up for health insurance using the Healthcare.gov website
during the open enrollment period between November and Jan. 31,
the U.S. government said on Friday.
Enrollment was down from 9.7 million a year ago but the
decline was smaller than some had predicted amid President
Donald Trump's push to overturn former President Barack Obama's
signature healthcare reform under which the plans are sold.
With several insurers pulling out over rising costs, and
Republican congressional efforts to scuttle the Affordable Care
Act (ACA), known as Obamacare, the enrollment period was seen as
a test of the program's popularity.
HealthCare.gov sells health insurance under the ACA for 39
states. The remaining states run their own exchanges. The total
number of plan selections across all states for the entire open
enrollment period will be released in March.
Average premiums for the second-lowest cost silver plan rose
25 percent compared with the previous year. At the same time the
number of insurance providers choosing to participate in the
exchanges fell by 28 percent.
Of the 9.2 million, about 3 million were new consumers while
6.2 million were returning consumers. The figures include any
cancellations that occurred during the period.
Trump's surprise victory in early November as the enrollment
period got underway created serious doubts about whether people
would sign up for the insurance program.
A move by the Trump administration to pull television ads
reminding consumers that the enrollment deadline was approaching
likely contributed to the dropoff.
"This may have cost about 500,000 additional enrollments,"
said Ron Pollack, executive director of healthcare consumer
advocacy group Families USA, in a statement, calling the move an
"attempt to sabotage enrollment."
"And despite all that, millions of consumers still got their
insurance through the ACA," Pollack said.
Meanwhile, Republican efforts to repeal the healthcare law
have stumbled over an inability so far to come up with a
comprehensive replacement plan.
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee this week
said changes to the law would be made in "chunks" and would be
better labeled a "repair."
(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington and Bill Berkrot in New
York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Andrew Hay)