Affordable Care Act open enrollment keeping pace with prior years, even as – Health News Today

Health care researchers expected a surge in people buying health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act exchange because of the pandemic, but so far, enrollment numbers are about the same as last year, federal data shows.

More than 1.6 million people nationally have enrolled in Affordable Care Act plans, similar to enrollment in the first half of November last year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This year’s figures, however, don’t include consumers from New Jersey or Pennsylvania, which left the federal exchange this year after setting up their own exchanges.

That means enrollment is creeping up in other states, but it’s not a sizable increase from prior years. The open enrollment period ends Dec. 15.

“Permanent job losses have increased over the year, so I would expect enrollment to be higher than it was,” said Daniel McDermott, a research associate at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a Washington think tank.

OPEN ENROLLMENT: How do you enroll on the 2021 Affordable Care Act exchange?

An estimated 7.7 million workers nationwide lost health insurance during the pandemic, according to a study from the Commonwealth Fund, health policy think tank in Washington. Analysts expect that more businesses will shut down for good as COVID-19 rates peak again around the country, meaning more employees will lose job-sponsored coverage.

Last year, 11.4 million consumers across the U.S. and more than 1.1 million Texans enrolled in health plans offered on healthcare.gov, the federal insurance exchange.

The obstacles

Analysts and insurers say the pandemic is making it even harder for consumers to choose plans, following the Trump administration’s decision a few years ago to reduce funding for Affordable Care Act navigators, who explain plans to consumers and help them pick insurance.

The navigators who remain face difficulties in getting to consumers. COVID-19 has rendered large, crowded open enrollment fairs obsolete, and people are less likely to go seek help at an office as infection rates soar, said Lisa Wright, the president of Houston insurer Community Health Choice.

Community Health Choice, which…