The deadline for coverage for HealthCare.gov is January 1.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Consumers seeking government-subsidized health insurance for next year must register by Wednesday if they want their new plan to go live January 1.

Independent experts say HealthCare.gov’s sign-up season doesn’t seem to be attracting as many new customers this year – 8-9% less than last year – but it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions because the timing is a big part of sign-up. …

Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act is different this time because it is an early test of President Joe Biden’s idea that the US can move closer to reaching everyone by building on existing programs.

Wednesday is the first of two deadlines for HealthCare.gov coverage, with an increase in financial assistance available through Biden’s Coronavirus Law. The last chance comes on January 15th and starts on February 1st.

People who are already enrolled do not need to do anything. If they are satisfied with their current plan, they will automatically renew for 2022. HealthCare.gov and its government partners are insurance marketplaces that offer taxpayer-subsidized private coverage.

About 91% of US residents currently have employer, government, and individual health insurance coverage, but 28 million people remain uninsured even in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them will be eligible for taxpayer-subsidized coverage, and polls show that many are simply not aware of this.

Post-registration experts say new member numbers are slightly behind last year’s numbers in 33 states served by the federal website HealthCare.gov. The rest of the states and Washington, DC are running their own enrollment campaigns.

“It really doesn’t look like the market is growing fast,” said Cynthia Cox of the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. This is “a disappointing sign given that many more people are eligible for free or low-cost coverage” under Biden’s COVID Relief Act. The President’s Social Agenda Bill will extend these increased subsidies.

Administration officials say they are not worried about the numbers. Health and Human Services Minister Xavier Becerra told reporters on Tuesday that more than 5 million people have either already signed up or are actively renewing their coverage.

Across the country, about 12 million people are insured in the insurance markets.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommend that those who postpone the deadline sign up by midnight local time in their area.

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