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Affordable Care Act Signups Continue Rising

More than 11.5 million people have already signed up for health plans in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) marketplaces during this year’s open enrollment period, which ends January 31, the Department of Health and Human Services reports. As of December 24, signups outpaced last year by about 286,000.

While many insurers raised premiums in 2017, these increases don’t seem to have led consumers to drop coverage. Of the 11.5 million people who signed up, 8.9 million were enrolled in 2016. And 56 percent of them weren’t simply re-enrolled automatically; they returned to the marketplace, shopped, and picked a plan to suit their current needs.

The vast majority (81 percent) of people who signed up will receive premium tax credits to help offset their costs. The credits are tied in part to the cost of the “benchmark” plans (the second-lowest-cost “silver” plan in a consumer’s area), so when the plans’ costs rise, so do the credits. The average monthly credit for people signing up for 2017 coverage in the 39 states using is $386.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers found that this year’s premium increases haven’t caused large enrollment declines. In fact, in Arizona, which had the nation’s largest premium increase for 2017, signups rose by 8 percent this year.

Despite claims that the ACA is in a “death spiral,” the facts tell a different story: enrollment has steadily climbed since the ACA took full effect, premiums increases aren’t causing people to drop coverage, and Wall Street analysts say the financial outlook for health plans is improving.