More people are on track to enroll for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchange, commonly called Obamacare, in the first month of enrollment, exceeding the pace of previous years, according to new federal data.
Those numbers mirror local figures on how many people have sought assistance selecting health insurance.
In November, the first month of enrollment, the Galveston County Health District helped more than 1,340 people with the process, according to the district. In the same period, the district enrolled 219 people in health insurance programs. That number outpaced previous years for the first month of enrollment, specialists said.
The Galveston County Health District is one of several organizations with staff helping people navigate selecting health insurance — and the district only keeps numbers on how many people visit its facility.
During the three-month enrollment period beginning Nov. 1, 2016, and running through Jan. 31, the district assisted 1,799 people, according to the district. The district didn’t have the numbers for the first month of enrollment in 2016, but said this year it appeared that more people were enrolling sooner.
Employees attributed the higher number of enrollees in the first month to the shortened enrollment period, which this year will run Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, said Veronica Rodriguez, a certified application counselor for the health district.
The enrollment period is about half the length of those in each of the past three years and the Dec. 15 deadline is quickly approaching.
“There’s more urgency this year to get in,” Rodriguez said.
There also was a flurry of concerned customers coming in for help with re-enrollment after health insurance providers sent letters saying monthly premium rates would likely triple this year, Rodriguez said.
But in reality, when consumers come in, they are finding their monthly premiums are comparable to last year or cheaper, Rodriguez said.
The higher enrollment activity comes even as Republicans in Congress have tried repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Trump administration reduced advertising for the program by 90 percent and cut certain subsidies.
“Obamacare is finished,” President Donald Trump said in an October cabinet meeting. “It’s dead. It’s gone. It’s no longer — you shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.”
Alvin Guillory of Texas City purchased health insurance on the federal exchange again this week. He previously purchased health insurance through his work at a Texas City car wash, he said. But he switched to the federal marketplace last year because he found a more affordable plan, Guillory said.
Guillory had paid attention to previous attempts to repeal the program and was relieved it was still available, he said. He will pay about $48 a month for his premium during 2018, he said.
“I’ve had no complaints about it,” Guillory said.
The health district has certified application counselors who go over health insurance plans and costs for people who want help enrolling in the insurance program, Rodriguez said.
“We are able to tell people their copays and do a thorough explanation of the benefits,” Rodriguez said.
Counselors have submitted 316 applications in November, according to the district. The county didn’t have numbers available for how many people have enrolled or repurchased insurance on the federal exchange, only numbers for how many have visited the health district.
Nationally, more than 2.8 million consumers selected plans through the federal exchange between Nov. 1 and Nov. 25, about 30 percent more than in the same period last year, according to a government report released this week.