Slightly fewer Americans have enrolled for insurance through the federal Obamacare marketplace compared to a year ago, the government said on Thursday, but the number was higher than expected in light of steps taken by President Donald Trump and Congress to undermine the 2010 law.
For most of the rest of the country, enrollment closed on December 15.
Nearly half of Pennsylvanians who signed up for Obamacare enrolled last week. That means the final tally potentially could show an increase over previous year. Independent analysts say millions of people could leave the marketplace.
"It's a very, very strong number", said Joshua Peck, who was the chief marketing officer for healthcare.gov in the Obama administration.
The federal numbers also do not include figures from the 15 states that operate their own exchanges.
"It's hard to view these numbers as anything but a success given all the headwinds this year, and a sign that the (Affordable Care Act) is not exactly dead", said health economist Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation research organization.
The nationwide enrollment total won't be known for weeks, since some states running their own health insurance markets - or exchanges - continue signing up customers through January.
A day after President Donald Trump said the Affordable Care Act "has been repealed", officials reported that 8.8 million Americans have signed up for coverage on the federal insurance exchange in 2018 - almost reaching 2017's number in half the sign-up time. In addition, CMS said it was still counting sign-ups from people who were placed in a queue in the last hours before the deadline due to high call volumes.
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However, Altman expressed concerned that some people did not enroll because of the shortened deadline or the political proposal to eliminate the individual requirement to buy insurance and repeal parts of Obamacare.
While the health law will remain unchanged during the new year, a provision in the federal tax bill would end the financial penalty for going without health insurance in 2019.
Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said her agency took a "more cost effective" approach to outreach this year.
"Great job to the @CMSGov team for the work you did to make this the smoothest experience for consumers to date".
Health policy experts have said repealing that fine is likely to destabilize the Obamacare online marketplace by allowing the young and healthy to forego coverage, leaving people with costly pre-existing medical conditions and driving up premiums.
Moreover, it still leaves several other things intact, such as Medicaid expansion in states that have implemented it, federal subsidies to help pay premiums and the individual insurance marketplace. But so far, Republicans have been unable to do so, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on NPR this week that he doesn't see repealing the law on the Senate's agenda in 2018.
Bipartisan legislation to shore up insurance markets is pending before the Senate, but its fate is also uncertain.
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