WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Amid sharp increases in some premiums and the possibility the Affordable Care Act will be repealed in January, the federal government reports that a record number of people bought health insurance through HealthCare.gov this year.
The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that 6.4 million people purchased health insurance through the federal exchanges during the 2016 open enrollment period, an increase of 400,000 people over last year.
Some questioned whether they should buy insurance through the exchanges this year in light of President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, eliminating the exchange system and subsidies that help control costs for many consumers, but those concerns do not appear to have stopped people from buying policies during the last month.
HHS officials say the continued increase in the number of people using Obamacare to purchase health insurance is proof the system works, despite the many flaws and complaints that have marred its six years of existence.
"Today's enrollment numbers confirm that some of the doomsday predictions about the marketplace are not bearing out," said Secretary of Health Sylvia Burwell. "Some people asked whether customers would sign up... and today, we know that answer is 'yes.'"
Burwell said there were about 2 million new enrollees in ACA coverage, and 4.3 million selecting new plans in the exchanges, with those who did not renew or change their plan automatically reenrolled in their previous insurance plan or moved to a similar one if theirs was discontinued.
Consumers whose plans were automatically renewed will be tallied in January, which Burwell said will likely increase the total number of insurance plans credited to Obamacare by millions.
While Republicans have said they would repeal the law creating and governing the insurance exchanges, each of which is run by state agencies, no solid plan to replace the ACA has been announced.
"This is a product that people want and people need," Burwell said.