Try 1 month for 99¢
Obamacare billboard photo (copy)

People can sign up for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace through January at

Nearly 174,000 people in Wisconsin have signed up for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace for next year, up from about 153,000 at the same time a year ago, federal officials said Wednesday.

“The marketplace is strong,” said Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Doomsday predictions about the marketplace were wrong.”

Nationally, 6.4 million people had signed up by Monday, up from 6 million at the same time last year, despite significant cost increases in some areas and uncertainty about the health law’s future, Burwell said. The figures don’t include people who have been auto-enrolled.

Some 224,000 Wisconsin residents eventually got insurance through the marketplace this year. Enrollment for next year continues through the end of January, but people who wanted coverage beginning Jan. 1 had to sign up by Monday.

President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have said they will repeal the health reform law, also known as “Obamacare,” early next year.

It’s unclear what they plan to replace it with and when. Some Republicans have said they want to eliminate the marketplace, reallocate government subsidies for private insurance and encourage the use of health savings accounts, among other steps.

“Our plan recognizes that people deserve more patient- centered care, not more bureaucracy,” the authors of a GOP blueprint wrote in June. “That means more choices, not more mandates.”

An Urban Institute report this month said that if the law is repealed without being replaced with other coverage options, 431,000 more Wisconsinites could become uninsured by 2019, on top of about 299,000 who lack insurance now.

In a Commonwealth Fund report Wednesday, 13 percent of adults said cost prevented them from getting health care last year, down from 16 percent in 2013, the year before the Obamacare marketplace opened.

In Wisconsin, 9 percent of adults avoided care because of cost last year, down from 12 percent in 2013, the Commonwealth Fund report said.

Meanwhile, Madison continues to have the lowest-cost health insurance in the state, according to a report Wednesday by Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Insurance premiums paid by workers and employers, along with workers’ deductibles, will cost about $7,429 next year for a single person in the Madison area, compared to a state average of $8,438.

In the most expensive market, Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids, the cost is $10,008.

Rates are typically lower in Madison because health insurance companies compete more for business in Dane County, especially among state employees.

Statewide, premiums and deductibles together went up an average of 15 percent a year from 2000 to 2013, compared to 2 percent a year since 2014, Citizen Action said.

“Claims that health insurance costs have spiked because of the Affordable Care Act are not supported by this data,” said Robert Kraig, Citizen Action’s executive director. “In fact, the opposite is supported.”


David Wahlberg is the health and medicine reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.