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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
More than 14,000 Iowans had signed up for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace through Nov. 18, according to new government data, exceeding the number who had done so last year at this time.
The federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week released third-week figures for signups, reporting that nearly 2.3 million Americans had selected plans so far.
Signups have been ahead of last year's pace, despite far less advertising about the open enrollment period and a cutback in the number of on-the-ground advisers the federal government pays for under President Donald Trump.
Last week, the federal office reported that nearly 1.5 million people had selected Affordable Care Act plans in the first two weeks of enrollment, which began Nov. 1. For a similar period the year before, it was just over 1 million.
Last week's release was the first glimpse at what has been happening in Iowa this year.
The report said that 14,284 Iowans had signed up in the first three weeks of this year's enrollment window, which already has surpassed the 12,099 who had done so in the first four weeks of last year's period.
Last year's figures were reported in two-week increments, making direct comparisons difficult. In addition, the Trump administration cut the enrollment period this year to just six weeks, half the three months that people were given last year. It ends Dec. 15.
Overall, 51,573 Iowans ended up selecting Obamacare plans last year.
Iowa's individual insurance marketplace has seen a great deal of turmoil this year, as only one company, Medica, remains in the marketplace. Also, Trump and Republicans in Congress have sought to kill Obamacare, but have failed to do so yet.
This summer, Iowa's insurance commissioner sought federal permission to revamp the marketplace in the state with a temporary measure that officials said would stabilize it. But months after submitting an initial request, the state withdrew its plan.
One Iowa enrollment specialist said she has seen an increase in interest in marketplace plans this year.
Linaka Kain, who oversees enrollment activities regionally at UnityPoint Health in the Quad Cities, said that about 290 people had enrolled in plans in the Quad Cities.
That is nearly three times what it was last year at this time.
Nearly all the people who were helped qualified for tax credits, which bring down the cost of premiums for them.
Because of how insurers and state regulators responded to the administration's elimination of government payments for cost-sharing subsidies last month, many people who qualify for the tax credits are actually seeing lower costs this year.
That has even allowed some to afford higher value plans.
'This is the first year we've had so many people picking Gold plans,” Kain said.
People who buy outside the marketplace or don't qualify for tax credits aren't having the same experience. They're seeing higher costs. Medica's average premium in Iowa is up about 57 percent over last year.
In proposing its stopgap measure to the Trump administration earlier this year, Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen predicted that between 18,000 and 22,000 Iowans would lose health care coverage if the plan was not approved.
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