- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nearly a million people have signed up for Obamacare since Feb. 23 because they lost other forms of coverage or had a significant life change, the Obama administration said Thursday in a snapshot of people who used the federal HealthCare.gov website between the law’s formal enrollment periods.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday that between Feb. 27 and June 30, more than 940,000 people selected a health plan on the federal HealthCare.gov website serving 37 states that don’t run their own enrollment websites.

Although sign-ups for plan year 2015 ended in mid-February, they were allowed to sign up because they lost Medicaid or other forms of coverage, had a significant life change, or took advantage of a special window to avoid this year’s tax for flouting the law’s “individual mandate” to hold insurance.

People who do not qualify for a special enrollment period must wait until Nov. 1, when signups for 2016 plan year begin.

“Life changes are often impossible to predict, but access to affordable and quality health care coverage should never be,” HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan said. “So far this year, nearly 950,000 people have gained the peace of mind that comes with access to coverage by taking advantage of a special enrollment period, providing us with further evidence that the Health Insurance Marketplace is working for America’s families.”

Two large states without their own insurance portals — Florida and Texas — led the way with about 161,000 and 132,000 enrollees, respectively.

CMS said about 467,000 people — or half of the new enrollees — were still able to sign up because they lost coverage that met Obamacare’s minimum coverage requirements.

Nearly a fifth of the enrollees, about 180,000, found themselves no longer eligible for Medicaid, and 15 percent were allowed to sign up for a “tax season” enrollment period between March 15 and April 30 because they paid a fine for lacking insurance last year and didn’t want to face heftier fines in 2015 for flouting the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” to hold insurance.

The remaining 16 percent qualified for a special enrollment period because of a life change, such as getting married or having a child.

It is unclear how many of the enrollees effectuated coverage by paying their first month’s premiums, or continued to pay after that, making it difficult to say how many should be lumped onto the 10.2-million paying customers the program boasted as of March 31.

Yet earlier this week, a pair of reports suggested Obamacare is meeting its goal of cutting the ranks of uninsured.

The Gallup polling group said states that embraced the law saw steeper a decline in their uninsured rates.

On Tuesday, the National Center for Health Statistics said 9.2 percent of the U.S. population — 29 million people — was uninsured in the first three months of this year, or seven million fewer than in 2014 and 15.8 million fewer than in 2013.

Starting in January 2014, Obamacare offered subsidized coverage through insurance exchanges in every state. Also, more than half the states expanded their Medicaid programs to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The law’s supporters have used declining uninsured rates to combat Republican critics who say the law is a failure.

GOP lawmakers say Obamacare used onerous mandates to force people to get covered, and that those customers — especially young adults — could see premium hikes and high deductibles, lessening the appeal of their new plans.

Republican leaders want to use a fast-track budget tool known as “reconciliation” to repeal as much of Obamacare as they can on a filibuster-avoiding basis, although Mr. Obama can veto whatever bill they produce.

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