By Jerry Geisel, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (Jan. 6, 2016) — More than 8.5 million individuals signed up for health insurance plans through the federal exchange during the first eight weeks of enrollment for 2016 coverage, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported last week.
Of the 8.52 million individuals who selected exchange coverage between Nov. 1 and Dec. 26, 274,659 signed up for coverage between Dec. 20 and Dec. 26.
Enrollment in the federal exchange is sharply higher compared to about the same period a year ago. From Nov. 15 through Dec. 26, 2014, nearly 6.5 million individuals — about 2 million fewer than during the 2016 open enrollment season — opted for coverage in the federal exchange.
Of those opting for coverage in the 38 states in which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) operates the exchanges, 29 percent selected exchange coverage for the first time, and 71 percent renewed coverage.
Of those 38 states, the most enrollees during the first eight weeks of open enrollment were in Florida, where 1.56 million individuals opted for coverage, followed by Texas with 1.1 million and North Carolina with 553,729.
States with the smallest exchange enrollment include Hawaii with 11,157, North Dakota with 19,729 and Wyoming with 20,007.
HHS also reported that its call center received more than 10.6 million calls from Nov. 1 through Dec. 26 — with an average wait time of 12 minutes and 50 seconds.
The deadline for selecting coverage is Jan. 31.