Health Care

Obamacare projection: 10 million in insurance program in 2016

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said 10 million enrolled in a health plan through Affordable Care Act exchange is “a strong and realistic goal” for 2016. Burwell is pictured during a visit to FIU in November 2014 for a panel discussion on open enrollment.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said 10 million enrolled in a health plan through Affordable Care Act exchange is “a strong and realistic goal” for 2016. Burwell is pictured during a visit to FIU in November 2014 for a panel discussion on open enrollment. The Miami Herald

About 10 million people will enroll in a health plan through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges in 2016, the Obama administration announced Thursday, tempering earlier expectations that the health law would expand coverage to many more Americans.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell acknowledged the enrollment projection falls below earlier estimates that envisioned many Americans would drop their employer-sponsored coverage to buy a plan on the exchanges.

“That shift has not occurred,” Burwell told reporters at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Burwell said HHS analysts estimate a final range of 9.4 million to 11.4 million people will have coverage through the exchanges at the end of 2016. But she called 10 million “a strong and realistic goal.’’

That goal represents only a slight increase over the current enrollment of 9.95 million Americans in a health plan through the ACA exchanges, including about 1.3 million people in Florida.

The ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, expands health insurance coverage primarily through two ways: offering financial assistance for low- and middle-income Americans to buy a plan on the exchanges and expanding eligibility for Medicaid, the government program for poor and disabled people.

Almost half of eligible uninsured are between ages of 18 and 34. Most are male. Many are minorities.

About 17.6 million Americans have gained coverage under the ACA, according to HHS.

But many people — an estimated 32.3 million, including about 2.7 million in Florida — remained uninsured in early 2015, about half of whom are eligible for Medicaid or for financial aid to buy a plan on the exchanges, according to a recent report from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Among those eligible uninsured, an estimated 10.5 million would qualify for coverage through the exchanges. Burwell said almost half of that group is between 18 and 34, most are male and the great majority earn incomes that qualify them for financial aid to make their coverage more affordable. More than a third are minorities.

Holding them back, Burwell said, are concerns about the cost of coverage and a lack of information about available financial aid, which is set on a sliding scale. Those with lower incomes receiver more generous subsidies while those with higher incomes receive less.

According to an analysis by healthcare consulting company Avalere of 2015 enrollment in the 34 states using the federally-run exchange at healthcare.gov, consumers were less likely to sign up as their incomes increased.

Burwell said HHS will emphasize the financial assistance available under the health law when open enrollment begins on Nov. 1 for eligible Americans to shop for a plan on the ACA exchanges. Open enrollment ends on Jan. 30.

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