Analysis Projects Slowdown for Obamacare Enrollment Next Year

Obamacare will likely see a “significant slowdown” in enrollment next year, a Thursday analysis from S&P Global Ratings projects.

The report suggests effectuated marketplace enrollment will range between 10.2 million and 11.6 million in 2017. The analysts say their forecast “is clearly a bump in the road, but doesn’t signal ‘game over’ for the marketplace.”

“The marketplace would benefit from growth in enrollment, especially if it helps improve the morbidity of the risk pool. But 2017 will likely not be the year the marketplace sees significant expansion,” the report says.

S&P is forecasting between 11.7 million and 13.3 million will sign up for coverage during the open enrollment period that starts next month, but assumes around 85 percent of those enrollees will pay premiums and maintain active policies throughout the year.

The Obama administration is hoping for a strong open enrollment period this year to strengthen the marketplace, after facing setbacks this year, such as insurers retreating from the exchanges and rising premiums.

The Department of Health and Human Services pushed back on the projection, saying they have confidence in their outreach plans.

“HHS is looking forward to a successful fourth Open Enrollment, and we expect continued growth in the Marketplace,” HHS Press Secretary Marjorie Connolly said in a statement “As the uninsured rate continues to fall to record lows, we are confident that this year’s outreach strategy will keep connecting Americans with coverage they need and want.”

S&P’s projected slowdown would come after two years of growth in marketplace enrollees. The Department of Health and Human Services is planning outreach to uninsured people who would be eligible for subsidies on the marketplace, which S&P anticipates will add the the number of enrollees. But analysts expect that to be offset by a set of non-subsided current marketplace enrollees who won’t renew their coverage next year.

“These individuals are the most price-sensitive of the four segments, since they are paying full premiums and will be most affected by the premium rate increases expected in 2017,” they report says.

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