Federal health officials expect that somewhere between 9 million and 9.9 million individuals will have obtained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces by the end of the 2015 open enrollment period, down from a previous government estimate of 13 million.

The 9 million to 9.9 million estimate from the Health and Human Services department assumes that about 83% of individuals who purchased insurance through the marketplaces during 2014 will renew their coverage, with most of the new enrollment coming from previously uninsured individuals.

HHS released the figures just days ahead of the start of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) second open enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15, 2015.

The Congressional Budget Office, which provides nonpartisan budget analysis for Congress, had projected in April 2014 that 13 million Americans would be insured through the ACA marketplaces by the end of the second enrollment period in February 2015.

The HHS projection is lower, according to the agency, because it assumes that fewer people who have employer-sponsored insurance will jump to the ACA marketplaces in 2015. Fewer individuals who purchased individual market insurance on their own are expected to shop on the ACA marketplaces right away, according to HHS.

Another factor is that the Congressional Budget Office made its projections in April, before the final 2014 enrollment figures were available. In the spring, HHS had said that more than 8 million people had selected plans through the ACA marketplaces, but as of October 2014, 7.1 million individuals had enrolled and were paying for coverage.

The new enrollment estimates were criticized by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“The administration is again trying to rewrite its definition of success for the president’s signature law on the eve of Saturday’s second enrollment,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman, said in a statement . “There are still a number of important, unanswered questions, including whether or not the back end is built and if the millions of inconsistencies have been resolved.”

mschneider@frontlinemedcom.com 
On Twitter @maryellenny

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