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HHS aims for 10M marketplace enrollees by end of 2016

Modest goal may reflect challenge of reaching remaining uninsured

Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated when HHS estimated there would be 10 million marketplace enrollees. It estimates 10 million will have marketplace coverage by the end of 2016.

The federal government says it wants to have 10 million people covered through the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces by the end of 2016 a relatively modest goal considering 9.9 million were enrolled as of June.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) picked its overall enrollment goal of 10 million after estimating a final range of 9.4 million to 11.4 million individuals with active coverage by the end of 2015. The number of individuals enrolled on the exchanges has dropped after 11.7 million signed up during the previous open enrollment period.

Indeed, the marketplaces have sometimes struggled to retain enrollees, as individuals drop out when they obtain employer-sponsored coverage, decide they can't afford premiums or are confused by their health plan's requirements, among other reasons.

Still, the federal agency believes 1 out of every 4 uninsured individuals who are eligible for marketplace plans will select coverage during open enrollment, which begins Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 31.

The cautious enrollment goal may also stem from the fact that HHS has said it expects this to be the toughest sign-up period yet. Thus, it has planned outreach efforts in targeted areas of the country to engage with the remaining 10.5 million uninsured individuals.

Nearly 8 in 10 of these individuals may be eligible to receive financial help through the marketplaces, HHS said Thursday, statistics that echo a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis that found nearly half of the non-elderly uninsured American population qualifies for Medicaid or other subsidized coverage through the ACA.

Though HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell says in the announcement that "we've seen high levels of satisfaction with the marketplace and expect the vast majority of our current customers will re-enroll," she also notes that the government has made upgrades to Healthcare.gov to improve user experience. That includes recently announced price-comparison tools and enhanced security features.

Related Articles:
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Healthcare.gov upgrade aims to make it easier to compare health insurance plans by price
Amid enrollment push, ACA marketplaces struggle to keep customers