Nearly 435,000 Pennsylvanians signed up for health insurance through Pennie.com during the marketplace’s 2023-24 open enrollment period, officials said Monday.
The number is a 17% increase over 2022-23 and is a record high. Since Pennsylvania established Pennie four years ago, enrollment has grown by 150,000, or 56%, the state said.
“This record-breaking number in enrollment is a tremendous milestone,” Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys said in a statement.
Pennie is Pennsylvania’s version of Healthcare.gov, the health insurance marketplace established under the Affordable Care Act. It allows people who are not covered by insurance from an employer or a government plan such as Medicaid or Medicare to shop for plans.
The plans are heavily subsidized to make them affordable, and around 90% of customers qualify for discounts. The federal Inflation Reduction Act provided additional subsidies that reduced premiums an additional 45% — a big reason for the uptick in enrollments, officials said.
Another factor they cited was the resumption of Medicaid reenrollment. During the pandemic, the federal government required states to keep Medicaid beneficiaries continuously enrolled, without periodically reevaluating their eligibility. That policy ended last year, obliging Pennsylvania in April to begin a 12-month process of collecting beneficiaries’ information and either confirming or discontinuing their coverage.
The state is trying to refer people who are disenrolled to other options. Through the end of last year, just under 20,500 of them had been enrolled in Pennie, according to state data.
Critics say Pennsylvania’s reenrollment process has been unnecessarily cumbersome. Spotlight PA reported in October that it has resulted in tens of thousands of people losing coverage “at least temporarily.” Among other things, Pennsylvania is one of the states least likely to automatically reenroll people using information it already has on file, the media outlet said.
Pennie’s annual open enrollment period runs from November to mid-January. The rest of the time, people can only enroll or make plan changes if they experience a “qualifying life event,” such as a change of employment or marital status.
Numbers up nationwide
Pennie’s record numbers are part of a nationwide enrollment surge. In all, more than 21 million Americans either signed up for coverage or renewed their plans during the just-ended open enrollment period, the Biden administration said, an increase of 5 million over 2022-23.
Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, monthly premiums for most customers are down to $10 or less, the administration said.
Public attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act have grown more positive in recent years. As of last May was split roughly 60%/40% in its favor, according to polling by the think tank KFF.
As the Washington Post reports, Republicans tried multiple times to repeal the ACA during President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, has continued to say he would push for repeal.
Analysts say the law is now firmly embedded in America’s health care environment, and the Biden administration says its repeal would result in lost coverage and higher health costs for millions of people.