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More Oklahomans than ever might sign up for a health care plan on the Affordable Care Act exchange for the upcoming year. 

Federal data released Wednesday shows Oklahoma is on pace to topple the record the state set last year when almost 160,000 signed up for plans that took effect for this year. 

As of Dec. 5, the latest date with data available, 68,133 have selected 2021 plans on the federal exchange, commonly known as Obamacare. That is thousands more than had signed up in each of the past two years at this point in the enrollment period, which ends Tuesday, Dec. 15. 

In 2019, for example, 63,333 Oklahomans had enrolled with plans on the exchange when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service released the weekly snapshot numbers last year on Dec. 7 — two days later than they reported this year. This year’s running total is more than 7% higher.

The surge of sign-ups comes as insurers are offering more plans, and at cheaper prices, than in past years. 

The three insurers — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Bright Health and Medica Insurance Company — that offered individual health plans on the exchange for the current year are doing so again for the plans that take effect Jan. 1.

In addition, there will be new entries for selected areas of the state: Oscar Health and UnitedHealthCare.

Before 2019, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma was the only insurer that offered plans.

After years of seeing costs rise, monthly benchmark premiums on the federal exchange for the coming year are also down more than 20% from a record high in 2019.   

The stakes for ensuring residents sign up for the often-heavily subsidized health insurance is especially high in Oklahoma, whose 14.3% uninsured rate is the nation’s second highest. 

Expanded offerings and lower prices could attract more buyers than normal, health care experts said earlier this year. It is unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic might complicate enrollment, particularly for those who previously relied on in-person assistance. 

The bulk of the sign-ups come during the final days of the enrollment period. The federal government is expected to release its preliminary enrollment totals later this month and then publish the final figures in early January. 

Trevor Brown has been an Oklahoma Watch reporter since 2016. He covers politics, elections, health policies and government accountability issues. Call or text him at (630) 301-0589. Email him at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tbrownokc


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Trevor Brown

Trevor Brown has been an Oklahoma Watch reporter since 2016. He covers politics, elections, health policies and government accountability issues. Call or text him at (630) 301-0589 or email at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org....