More than a half-million Americans have signed up for Affordable Care Act coverage during the first six weeks of a special open enrollment period that the Biden administration started in February.
The new enrollment figures, released Wednesday morning by the Department of Health and Human Services, suggest there is strong demand for health coverage during the pandemic. They also show the health law starting to reach a more diverse population: 17 percent of enrollees during this six-week period identified as Black, an increase from 11 percent in recent years.
The federal marketplace is also showing a slight increase in enrollees who have earnings just above the federal poverty line.
Sign-ups this year are more than double that of the equivalent periods in 2019 and 2020, when only those who met certain criteria — having lost coverage at work, for example, or moved to a new state — were allowed to enroll. The Biden administration is allowing all Americans to purchase Obamacare coverage through Aug. 15 because of the national health emergency.
The new enrollment figures cover the 36 states that use Healthcare.gov to run their health insurance marketplaces. They do not include Americans enrolling in coverage in the 14 states and District of Columbia that manage their own markets, many of which also have extended enrollment periods this year.
The Biden administration has also made significant investments in advertising and outreach, after the Trump administration slashed such spending. The new administration plans to spend $100 million advertising the options on Healthcare.gov through this summer, and has also committed $2.3 million in additional outreach funding.
The new sign-up figures do not include people who enrolled after April 1, when billions of dollars in new premium subsidies went live on Healthcare.gov. That funding could further increase enrollment because it will reduce what nearly all current Obamacare enrollees pay for monthly premiums.
More than six million Americans — about three of every five uninsured people — will qualify for health plans that don’t cost them any premiums, according to a recent government analysis.
The additional funding is expected to lead to a further 1.3 million Americans enrolling in coverage, according to Congressional Budget Office projections.