Once again, President Joe Biden was able to announce an all-time record for Obamacare enrollments, this year breaking last year’s new record. “From November 1st to December 15th, nearly 11.5 million Americans signed up for insurance on HealthCare.gov,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday, “about 1.8 million more people, an 18 percent increase, over the same period last year.
“That’s an all-time record, with enrollment still open and not counting people who have signed up for coverage through their state marketplaces,” he continued, adding that under his watch the uninsured rate dropped to just 8% this year—an all-time record low.
A combination of new regulations and a beefed up outreach and assistance program from the administration can account for the record numbers. This year, the government invested nearly $100 million in Navigator groups that assist consumers in accessing not just the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces, but Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
That’s clearly paid off in new enrollments. That’s because the government could get the word out on the real deals people could get on the marketplaces, a fact Biden also touted. “Right now, four out of five people who sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act can find health care coverage for $10 a month or less,” he said in Tuesday’s statement. Then he took a well-deserved bow: “These lower rates were set to expire at the end of this year, but thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, we were able to extend them and save millions of Americans on Obamacare an average of $800 a year.”
On top of that, this Biden fixed one of the persistent problems in the law that kept people from enrolling. More than 5.1 million people became eligible to enroll in marketplace plans, people who were locked out because they could get insurance for their families through their workplace, even though that coverage took a huge bite out of their salary.
This year, the IRS finalized a rule change to make sure that affordability—what percentage of a person’s paycheck would have to go toward coverage—is based on family premiums as necessary. In 2022, the threshold for “affordability” of employer-sponsored coverage is 9.61% of household income; if insurance costs ate up more than that, then you would qualify for an individual subsidy under the ACA. It’s going to drop to 9.12% in 2023—and will apply to whole family coverage instead of individual.
Most importantly, Biden and the Democratic Congress extended the premium subsidies passed first in the 2021 American Rescue Plan to help people out of the COVID-19 pandemic economic and health mess. That law expanded the subsidies available on marketplace plans, and that’s in part how the majority people have been able to find plans for $10 or less a month in premiums. It was a smart use of federal funds in the pandemic recovery, and it’s a smart use of them no.
It’s what a competent government that actually cares about serving the public can accomplish. It’s not sexy and headline-grabbing, but it’s a significant improvement in life for millions of Americans. It’s also not done yet—enrollments continue on Healthcare.gov through Jan. 15, and later in January in a handful of states.