Ironically, places with more competition tend to have slightly higher prices for people with subsidies, and more insurers have entered the market this year in some parts of the country.
“There are fewer zero-dollar plans because there is competition,” said Katherine Hempstead, a senior adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Still, for most people who receive subsidies, a plan is available for less than $75 a month. They are likely to find Obamacare plans are still the best buy. “The people who are subsidized are pretty insulated,” said Edmund Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
People don’t know they need to sign up
To get coverage, people need to know that the open enrollment period is happening now. Last year, the Trump administration slashed funding for advertising and other forms of marketing by 90 percent, and those funds weren’t restored this year.
Research suggests that advertising does influence enrollment, and some experts say that the effects of lower outreach may compound over time, as fewer and fewer people in need of health insurance remember how the Obamacare market works.
There is also less media and grass-roots publicity. Last year, when the price of coverage spiked and there was intense debate over whether to repeal Obamacare, the marketplace was the focus of intense news coverage. This year, with flatter premiums and a raucous midterm election, there has been less media attention on the enrollment period.
“There were a lot of Obama alumni and patient advocacy groups who were pushing hard on enrollment, maybe seeing it as part of the resistance movement,” said Cynthia Cox, the director of the program for the study of health reform and private insurance at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“I just haven’t been seeing as much of it this year.”