Obamacare Sign-ups Rise but Overall Enrollment Set to Fall

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Approximately 3.6 million people nationwide have so far enrolled on the federal exchange for health insurance plans, and that's only since open registration began on November 1.

"While a lot of people will be eligible ..."

"Our call center staff is experiencing high call volumes, our website traffic is up and I think people are finding the need for health insurance to safeguard themselves and their family", Davis said.

An advisory published September 28 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which administers ACA programs, states that the December 16-31 special enrollment period will be available for consumers "residing in or moving from areas affected by a hurricane-related weather event in 2017". Those special enrollment periods generally last at least 60 days.

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You may qualify for Special Enrollment due to a life event like losing other coverage, getting married, or having a baby. Of that number, about 2.6 million consumers were renewing existing coverage.

It's not clear how many consumers this will affect. But roughly 9.2 million signed up at the end of the last open enrollment season, making it hard to see the numbers meeting that this year. This applies to people who lose their job-based coverage as well as those with marketplace plans whose insurer discontinues their plan for the upcoming year.

For the remainder of this week's open enrollment period, consumers still can set up free appointments with local navigators either by calling 847-3027 or 1 -855-733-3711, or by scheduling online at www.NCNavigator.net.

"Folks need help just navigating through the system and needing help figuring out what they should be doing", Buono said.

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It's also worth noting that those who are enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are eligible to enroll in a Marketplace plan all year and usually qualify for plans with no out of pocket costs except for the monthly premium.

"We pulled the team back together from the previous years because we didn't have much running room", Lodes said. They can still be reached on Friday, she added. "Notices are complicated, and these consumers in particular are going to get several notices which may result in more confusion, and it will not be easily understood by many what an SEP is or how and/or when to activate it".

"Since the very beginning of the open enrollment period, HHS has done virtually nothing to promote enrollment and notify customers about this severe cut to open enrollment's timeline or the vast differences from the previous year's offerings", Murray and Wyden wrote. Coverage for 2018 takes effect January 1. Officials said they'll consider extending the timeframe if necessary.

The only catch is that instead of simply logging onto Healthcare.gov and selecting a plan, late enrollees will have to call the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 "to request enrollment".

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