March 24, 2016 | Rosemarie Day and Angelique Hrycko

Results of the Third Open Enrollment Period


The third Open Enrollment Period (OEP) has come and gone, and 12.7 million* people have enrolled in marketplace plans, up from 11.7 million enrollments during the second Open Enrollment, and 8 million enrollments during the first Open Enrollment.1 While states have been hard at work covering the uninsured and working to keep consumers in their respective marketplaces, the exchange industry has blossomed into a $40 billion dollar industry, surpassing the coffee industry!2 Seeing that health insurance exchanges have become such a big piece of society and our economy over the past three years, let’s dive into some key takeaways from the third OEP. 

Click the infographic3,5 below for fast facts on the third OEP:

OE3 Blog (5)

Did We See Anything Different This Year?

This past OEP was a bit different from the others…mostly in a good way!

    • More people actively renewed, which means people are shopping to find the best plan!3
    • 3.9 actively renewed during the third OEP, compared to 2.2 million last year.3
    • People acted earlier this year: 60% came in for January 1st coverage as opposed to 40% last year. Additionally, consumers are selecting their plans earlier each OEP (see graph below).3

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 3.32.32 PM

    • Close to 2/3 of consumers saw a carrier exit their market, while nearly 1/2 had a new carrier choice on their exchange.2
    • 58% of consumers saw a new silver tier price leader for 2016 (a strong reason to shop around every year!).4
    • showed resilience in its ability to handle heavy volume: the call center had 14 million calls, there were 25 million unique website visitors, and the most concurrent users on was 300,000 –the system was able to handle this!2
    • The Feds added new decision support tools for consumers, including a pharmacy finder that was used by 3.6 million people.2

There is Always Room for Improvement:

Moving forward, main areas to improve should revolve heavily around customer service and support.

    • Overall customer service in the marketplaces needs to improve. The marketplaces know that people need to be motivated to return if they want to be stable and remain relevant. CMS is emphasizing the importance of listening to marketplace customers and evolving with their needs to meet their demands and improve satisfaction.2
    • Things need to be (even more) basic for consumers. While this relates to customer service, it’s worth mentioning separately because it still remains a big issue. Despite advances, consumers are still confused and don’t know where to look to find pertinent information. This leads to more calls to contact centers, increasing wait times and frustration for all.2
    • Currently, many Americans are working on their taxes, and many of them don’t know what the Affordable Care Act and their health insurance actually means in relation to their taxes. Knowledge about tax subsidies also continues to remain low. In the coming years, OEP’s will be shorter, ending in December, and some tax experts are nervous about this timing, wishing OEP’s and tax filings were more in sync. Possible solutions could be a special enrollment tax period, or having navigators take on the task of discussing tax implications with those they help.2

At America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) Health Insurance Exchanges Forum held March 8th in DC, Andy Slavitt and Kevin Counihan (both of CMS) made similar points about the health insurance marketplaces: we want them to be stable and sustainable, ultimately giving consumers a smoother and faster experience, and allowing plans the freedom to innovate. Looking ahead, exchanges will continue to focus their energy on sustainability and customer service, while looking to improve retention strategies. Despite being below CBO projections, the third OEP had many successes and the energy to keep improving exchanges is palpable from those who are on the front lines.

*Note: 12.7 million does not include special enrollment period (SEP) data, while enrollment figures from open enrollment periods 1 and 2 do; this number will likely fluctuate.3


1. Kaiser Family Foundation: Assessing ACA Marketplace Enrollment

2. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Health Insurance Exchanges Forum: Conference

3. Dept. of Health and Human Services: 2016 Open Enrollment ASPE Report 

4. McKinsey: 2016 exchange market remains in flux – Pricing Trends

5. CMS: Effectuated Enrollment Snapshot (as of 3/11/16)