Federal Exchange Still Buzzing with Activity After Open Enrollment Ends

HealthCare.gov has handled nearly 1 million transactions since the close of the open enrollment period, according to government data obtained by ProPublica under the Freedom of Information Act. Special enrollment periods allow people to buy or switch plans after qualifying life events, such as marriage or divorce, having a baby or adopting a child, or losing other health coverage.

While the numbers released don’t shed any light on how many of those transactions resulted in paid premiums, the information is surprising for some.

“That’s higher than I would have expected,” said Larry Levitt, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s senior vice president for special initiatives, to ProPublica. “There are a lot of people who qualify for special enrollment, but my assumption has been that few of them would actually sign up.”

However, ProPublica reported that, based on the estimate of an insurance industry official, less than half of the transactions are new enrollments. Though 960,000 transactions were counted, these numbers include new members, changes in enrollment status, and disenrollment. These transactions are all grouped under the umbrella of “834” transactions. According to ProPublica, when an existing member changes his or her policy, two 834s are created–one for ending the old plan and another for starting a new one. Thus, the number of actual new enrollments is hard to discern.

ProPublica discerned some other details of the first open enrollment period based on the data:

  • The slowest day was October 18, when there were no 834 transactions;
  • The next slowest day was the first day of open enrollment, October 1, with only 6 transactions;
  • The busiest day was March 31, the original deadline for enrollments, with more than 202,000 transactions; and
  • Eighty-six percent of individuals who signed up for coverage were eligible for premium tax subsidies from the federal government.

The next open enrollment period runs November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015.