After a year of turmoil, enrollment in Iowa's Affordable Care Act marketplace exceeded last year's amount, according to the federal government.
The Trump administration reported that 53,548 people were enrolled in the state through midnight eastern time Dec. 15. The figure surpassed the 51,573 that were enrolled the year before.
Nationwide, enrollment came close to equaling what it was last year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that 8.8 million Americans were enrolled across the country, 96 percent of the 9.2 million last year.
In Illinois, 339,740 were enrolled. That was just short of the 356,403 reported last year.
Backers of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, heralded the result, saying that it proved the marketplaces are not collapsing, as President Trump has claimed. They said enrollment numbers were strong even after Republicans in Congress tried to kill the law, the administration cut funding for enrollment assistance and shortened the enrollment period.
People had six weeks to sign up for coverage this year. Last year, it was three months.
"This Open Enrollment period proves, once again, that people want and need the health and financial security that comes with health coverage through the ACA marketplaces," Lori Lodes, co-founder of the group Get America Covered, said in a Medium post.
Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, who voted for the ACA, said Friday that he is "pleased that Iowans, in even greater numbers than last year, took the time to sign up through the ACA to receive their healthcare coverage." He added he would continue to "work with anyone in good faith to lower costs and improve our healthcare system.”
Doug Ommen, Iowa's insurance commissioner, said Friday the new figures are not unexpected. He said he still anticipates 18,000 to 22,000 Iowans will lose coverage as a result of significant premium increases in the state.
Those are the people who had previously purchased coverage outside the marketplace or didn't qualify for premium subsidies, which shelter those who do qualify from the price spikes.
"It appears to have been tracking what we anticipated," Ommen said Friday.
A spokesman for Medica, the only insurer in the marketplace, said Friday the enrollment figures met its expectations.
Linaka Kain, who oversees regional enrollment for UnityPoint Health, said the last week of enrollment was busy, and that people from Iowa were even willing to travel to the Illinois side of the river to sign up with counselors set up there.
"That typically doesn't happen," she said.
The latest figures count the people who signed up for new plans, actively re-enrolled or who were automatically enrolled. It does not report the number of people who have paid premiums.
Ommen said that he is interested in seeing how many follow through with making payments in January. He also said he didn't believe the shortened enrollment period had that much impact on enrollment figures because there's widespread awareness of the deadline.
"People here have been fairly well informed," he said.