Obamacare enrollment predicted to see ‘significant slowdown’ next year

Enrollment in the Obamacare insurance marketplace is likely to stall or even decline for 2017 after two years of growth, according to S&P Global Ratings forecasts.

“Our forecasted modest-to-negative growth is clearly a bump in the road, but doesn’t signal ‘game-over’ for the marketplace,” S&P analysts wrote in a report released Thursday.

This November will be the fourth open enrollment period for individuals to choose insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law. The “significant slowdown” predicted by S&P would be another setback for ACA’s government-run insurance markets, after big insurers pulled out of many states because of mounting losses.

ACA enrollment will range from 10.2 million to 11.6 million people after 2017’s enrollment season, which starts Nov. 1, S&P said. The forecast takes into account individuals currently on the marketplace, and those eligible for income-based tax subsidies on the exchange. Last year 12.7 million people signed up for plans in the ACA marketplace, up from 11.7 million the year before.

Actual enrollments are falling far short of expectations for the plan when it was passed into law six years ago. The Congressional Budget Office projected the marketplace would have 24 million enrollees by 2016.

The slowdown in enrollment numbers will likely come from people who aren’t eligible for subsidies and may not re-enroll in 2017 because of the rise in premiums across insurance plans, S&P says. For next year, premiums are set to rise an average of 25 percent across the marketplace, according to data from ACASignups.net.

The U.S. has been pushing to get more people covered by the ACA, in part by emphasizing how subsidies can help make insurance more affordable despite rising premiums. Continued targeted outreach is necessary, and moderation of premium increases beyond 2017 “will likely bring growth back to the marketplace in future years,” S&P said.

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