Weekly Data Analysis

By Niall Brennan, Director & CMS Chief Data Officer

During the second Open Enrollment period (OE2), CMS began releasing weekly snapshots about states using the HealthCare.gov platform to provide additional details about enrollment progress; this has continued during the third Open Enrollment period (OE3). These weekly snapshots include point-in-time estimates of weekly and cumulative plan selections.  This document provides some guidance for interpreting the numbers in these snapshots, particularly when comparing this year’s (OE3) weekly results to last year’s.

  1. Deadlines drive plan selections. Just like many Americans who file taxes on April 15, experience has shown that the majority of consumers sign up for health coverage closer to deadlines. In fact, last year, more than half of sign-ups occurred in the two weeks leading up to the December 15 deadline. If you look at the November 29 – December 5 time period, as shown in Table 1, you’ll see a similar trend this year. Both this year and last year, the only deadline in November or December is December 15, for January 1 coverage, and we expect enrollment to continue to grow in the period from December 6 – 15, as it did last year. Last year, the deadline to sign up for January 1 coverage (December 15) was one month after Open Enrollment began, compared to the 6 week lead time before the deadline this year. 
  1. The third Open Enrollment period started earlier than last year. Open Enrollment for 2016 coverage started two weeks earlier (November 1) and finishes 2 weeks earlier (January 31) than 2015. Because of this two-week difference, if people want to compare snapshots they should do so for the same time periods. For example, the most appropriate comparison for the OE3 week 5 snapshot released this week is actually the OE2 week 3 snapshot from the corresponding time period last year. 
  1. There were far more returning consumers heading into Open Enrollment this year. Because of the success of OE2, we are starting this Open Enrollment with more Marketplace consumers than there were in 2014 and, correspondingly fewer currently uninsured Americans to sign up. Therefore, one should expect returning consumers will make up a larger fraction of total enrollment as compared to new enrollees this year – a trend that will become even more pronounced in future years as the Marketplace continues to grow and stabilize.                                                                                                                                                                                           Table 1: Week-by-Week Total Plan Selections 2014 and 2015 
    YEAR Nov 1 – 7 Nov 8 – 14 Nov 15 – 21 Nov 22 – 28 Nov 29 – Dec 5 Dec 6 – 12 Dec 13 – 19
    OE3 Total Plan Selections 543,098 534,778 567,822 394,732 804,338 ** **
    OE2 Total Plan Selections * * 462,125 303,010 618,548 1,082,879 3,927,484

    *Open Enrollment for 2015 coverage did not start until November 15, 2014.

    **Data from December 6 – December 19 is not yet available.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

    Chart 1: Plan Selections by Enrollment Week

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