Roughly 1.9 million Americans canceled their Obamacare coverage in 2017. Most cited high premiums and disruptions in coverage as the reason, according to two reports from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The agency announced that 12.2 million consumers had selected an Obamacare plan or were reenrolled by the end of open enrollment on January 31, 2017. Only 10.3 million of those consumers, however, committed to the purchase by paying their premiums, leaving roughly 1.9 million Americans who essentially canceled their coverage.
"In order to get a complete picture about enrollment numbers, it is more accurate to highlight the number of people who actually paid their premiums than those who simply selected a plan," the department said. "The data on drops in effectuated enrollment shows that, on average since 2014, more than a million enrollees per year have dropped their coverage before the end of the plan year."
According to enrollment data, the individuals who had terminated coverage also had less financial assistance and also had higher premiums. The agency also polled consumers to find out why they stopped paying their premiums.
There were 18,212 consumers who responded that either terminated or canceled their coverage and 14,332 of those paid the first premium but later stopped and 3,880 who did not pay their first premium at all.
Those who did not even pay their first premium cited high costs and lack of affordability as the top reasons for not doing so. For those who paid their first premium but later terminated their coverage, 60 percent instead signed up for employer-sponsored coverage.
"Consumers are sending a clear message that cost and affordability are major factors in their decision to cancel or terminate coverage," said CMS administrator Seema Verma.
In addition to costs, disruption in coverage due to insurers exiting the marketplace led to some individuals terminating their coverage. The report shows that 77 percent of those who had the same insurer available from 2016 to 2017 decided to keep their coverage, compared with 70 percent of those who did not have the same insurer offering coverage in 2017.
"Not surprisingly, as costs continue to go up, fewer Americans can afford to pay more and get less for health care," said HHS secretary Tom Price. "Many individuals and families across the country are tired of having their health care options dictated to them by Washington—particularly when those limited options are unaffordable."
"That's why every day we are working on behalf of President Trump on solutions that will show a little humility from the federal government, equip states to serve their unique and diverse populations, and put health care decisions in the hands of patients, families, and their doctors," he said.