Sylvia Mathews Burwell
In the first week of the third Open Enrollment, more than 540,000 people selected a health insurance plan through the HealthCare.gov platform, and more than 1.15 million consumers were included on applications submitted to the Marketplace. Even more signed up through their state-based Marketplaces.
It’s a solid start and I’m pleased with the consumer engagement we’ve seen over this last week. Our partners were ready to work, and people were ready to sign up. We know we have 11 more weeks to go and a lot of hard work still to do.
We saw about 358,000 existing Marketplace customers come back in, shop, and actively select a plan that best meets their needs. We are especially glad to see that our existing customers heard our message about shopping and are eager to renew their Marketplace coverage. We expect renewals to make up a larger share of our customers this year, since we have more than 9 million people with coverage through the Marketplace nationwide.
It’s important to recognize that it is difficult to directly compare this year to last year on a week-by-week basis for a number of reasons. For example, because Open Enrollment started on November 1 this year, compared to November 15 last year, the time from the start of Open Enrollment to the December 15 deadline to sign up for January 1 coverage is much longer this year. We know from past experience that people are deadline driven, so we don’t expect to see deadline effects for a few weeks.
Last week, the President announced a “Healthy Communities Challenge.” We are targeting 20 communities with large numbers or high percentages of uninsured, geographic diversity, and community leadership. And there is a big incentive: the victorious community gets bragging rights, a healthier community, and a visit from President Obama to celebrate their success in helping ensure every American has health coverage.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance to speak with thousands of assisters, local community leaders, and others who are on the front lines, helping their neighbors sign up. I also visited four cities where we know many of the uninsured live.
I was impressed by the level of commitment I saw on the ground. From small community health centers, to local governments, to issuers and big corporations, we’re seeing people invest in this Open Enrollment. In fact, one major insurer is holding more than 3,000 events in its state; a national pharmacy has pledged to work in more than 12,000 of its stores; and one health system in Houston has already sent out thousands of letters — all to encourage enrollment. This kind of commitment shows that this market is stable and strong, and that businesses want to invest and be a part of it.
I was also reminded once again of why we do this important work. In Jersey City, I met Jesicca Fernandez, who endured years of stomach troubles while she was uninsured. Once she found coverage on the Marketplace, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and she’s now getting the treatment she needs to live a healthier life.
Millions of people like Jesicca have found quality, affordable coverage on HealthCare.gov. All told, the uninsured rate has dropped by 45 percent since 2010.
Now even more Americans have a chance to get covered. Most will be able to get financial assistance—more than 7 in 10 returning Marketplace customers will be able to buy a plan for $75 or less a month in premiums after tax credits. And with new improvements to the site, signing up on HealthCare.gov is easier than ever. Most people will find it to be a simple and smooth experience, like this recent letter-writer to President Obama.
Whether shopping for health insurance for the very first time or re-enrolling in their Marketplace coverage, people are ready to get covered. Consumers are coming to HealthCare.gov, having a smooth experience and finding plans they can afford. That’s the Marketplace at work.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell is secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.