CMS Releases Final Snapshot for the 2021 Federal Exchange Open Enrollment Period
Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final weekly enrollment snapshot that shows approximately 8.3 million people selected individual market plans through the Marketplaces using the federal platform during the 2021 Open Enrollment Period. This total enrollment is nearly the same as enrollments during the 2020 Open Enrollment Period, despite the fact that New Jersey and Pennsylvania transitioned to State-based Exchange platforms starting with the 2021 Open Enrollment Period. As a result of their transition, selections in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are not included in this snapshot. After removing these states from the total plan selection totals in the 2020 Open Enrollment Period and comparing year-over-year trends shows plan selections this year increased by 7.0% from 2020 despite a decline in new consumers. Also, for the fourth straight year in a row, the consumer satisfaction rate at the Call Center remained high – averaging over 90% – throughout the entire Open Enrollment Period.
The data indicates enrollment remained stable and, with the investments over recent years to improve the stability and experience on the HealthCare.gov platform, more consumers were able to actively enroll or re-enroll in coverage this year without the need for waiting rooms.
“CMS has layered year upon year of improvements on HealthCare.gov, a sterling record of success that puts the lie to baseless accusations of sabotage. Our policies have lowered premiums, brought issuers back to the market, stabilized a law that had been in a tailspin for years and improved the customer experience,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “I want to thank the team at CMS, which for so long has worked tirelessly for Americans in the individual market.”
There are many factors that impact enrollment each year. Total plan selections are driven by three types of consumers: new consumers, renewing consumers who actively come back and shop for a plan, and consumers whose coverage is automatically renewed. Compared to last year’s Open Enrollment Period and removing plan selections in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the number of new consumers declined by 3.6%, while the number of renewing consumers with active plan selections increased by 13.2% and the number of renewing consumers who were automatically re-enrolled increased by 4.4%. All together, total plan selections increased by 7.0%. These results are consistent with recently released data showing higher effectuated enrollment mid-year due to fewer people dropping coverage and more people enrolling through special enrollment periods.
Additionally, CMS released a report showing the third consecutive year of improving market conditions, including lower premiums and more plan options, under the Trump Administration’s new policies. Three years of declining average second lowest cost silver plan (benchmark plan) premiums have combined to deliver an 8% average premium reduction across states using HealthCare.gov since the 2018 coverage year. Many consumers found more options, as issuer participation also increased for the third year in a row. The percentage of HealthCare.gov enrollees with access to only one issuer decreased from 29% in 2018 to 4% in 2021 and more than three quarters of HealthCare.gov enrollees had access to at least three issuers in 2021.
This year, resources were available for consumers including an increase in the number of licensed agents and brokers registered with the Federal Exchange. Nearly 50,000 agents and brokers were registered with the Exchange to help consumers during the 2021 Open Enrollment Period. Consumers continued to have the option to apply for and enroll in an Exchange plan directly through an approved issuer or web-broker by using the Enhanced Direct Enrollment (EDE) pathway, which eliminates the need to be redirected to HealthCare.gov or to contact the Exchange Call Center and provides more avenues for consumers to apply for and enroll in Exchange coverage.
The number of consumers who selected a plan through the EDE pathway grew from approximately 520,000 plan selections in the 2020 Open Enrollment Period to 1,130,000 approximately plan selections in the 2021 Open Enrollment Period. In addition to the increased plan selections, the EDE pathway attracted a higher proportion of new consumers compared to other enrollment channels and increased the percentage of returning consumers who made active plan selections during the 2021 Open Enrollment Period.
As part of CMS’ continued commitment to improving the customer experience, we streamlined the application experience on HealthCare.gov improving content and ease of use, and integrated help information throughout the application in order to provide a more seamless enrollment experience from start to finish, as well as enhanced mobile optimization. These updates provided content that guided consumers and enabled enrollees to easily access and understand information they may have needed to make informed choices about coverage.
CMS’s goal for the Open Enrollment Period was to provide a seamless experience for consumers. Despite the strong volume in the final days, both HealthCare.gov and the call center operated optimally. An online waiting room didn’t need to be deployed at any time during the Open Enrollment Period, and less than five hours of planned maintenance was used over the entire Open Enrollment Period. This meant consumers were able to shop for and pick a plan with little interruption throughout the entire enrollment period.
Also, similar to last year, CMS committed resources to cost-effective, high-impact outreach during this year’s Open Enrollment that increased as the deadline approached. For instance, CMS sent over 850 million reminder emails and text messages to consumers, as well as 3.2 million outreach emails to help Navigators, agents, and brokers assist consumers.
This snapshot represents final 2021 Open Enrollment Period figures including new plan selections, active plan renewals, automatic renewals as well as late cancellations of active plan selections made before the deadline and cancellations of automatic renewal plan selections.
To view the final enrollment snapshot, visit: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2021-federal-health-insurance-exchange-weekly-enrollment-snapshot-final-snapshot