Sign-ups for Biden's Obamacare special enrollment period nearly triple

Federal data shows more than 206,000 people signed up for Affordable Care Act policies on the federal exchange in the first two weeks of the special enrollment period ordered by President Joe Biden. By Tami Luhby, CNN

(CNN) -- More than 206,000 people signed up for Affordable Care Act policies on the federal exchange in the first two weeks of the special enrollment period ordered by President Joe Biden, federal data released Wednesday shows.

Uninsured Americans who want to buy 2021 coverage on healthcare.gov could start doing so on February 15, thanks to an executive order Biden signed in January. Special enrollment runs until May 15. Most states that operate their own marketplaces are also extending their enrollment seasons.

"These numbers are an encouraging sign — but we can't slow down until every American has the security and peace of mind that quality, affordable health coverage provides," Biden said.

Typically, signing up for coverage outside of the traditional enrollment period in the fall is restricted to those who lose their job-based policies or have a change in status, such as a divorce. Last year, only 76,000 people picked Obamacare plans during the second half of February, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal exchange.

Biden, however, reopened enrollment to give the uninsured another chance to select policies during the coronavirus pandemic, and his administration is pouring $50 million into marketing and outreach to let people know about the opportunity. CMS is also providing about $2.3 million to 30 navigator organizations to assist consumers with enrollment, the agency announced this week.

Former President Donald Trump refused to launch a special enrollment period when the pandemic hit last year and slashed the Affordable Care Act's marketing and navigator budgets throughout his term.

Florida and Texas had the most sign-ups during the current special enrollment period so far, with nearly 62,000 people and 35,000 people selecting plans, respectively. Some 36 states use the federal exchange for enrollment.

The increase in Obamacare's popularity began during the most recent open enrollment period, which ran for six weeks in November and December. Roughly 8.3 million people selected plans. It was the first time sign-ups rose under the Trump administration, though the number of new consumers slid somewhat.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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