More people signed up for health insurance on the final day of the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act than any other day during this enrollment or the previous enrollment period. Brokers, consultants and other industry professionals made that possible, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.

“You all were key in making it work,” she said at America’s Health Insurance Plans’ national health policy conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Also see: CEO: Brokers are ‘integral’ in post-ACA world

As of Feb. 22, nearly 11.7 million Americans had either signed up for the first time or re-enrolled in marketplace plans, Burwell said. More than half were new customers, she said. 

Of those who purchased a plan through, 7.7 million, or 87%, qualified for an average tax credit of $263 per month, Burwell said. With that financial assistance, more than half (55%) paid $100 or less per month for health insurance, she said. “The marketplace worked for the American people.”

Consumers also had more choice this time around. The number of insurers grew by 25% and individuals had an average of 40 plans to choose from, Burwell said.

It’s not just about the statistics, Burwell said. Behind those numbers are “real lives that have been changed,” she said, citing a Philadelphia woman who likely would have been buried in debt after being diagnosed with stomach cancer had she not gotten coverage. “It is story, after story, after story,” she said.

A strong relationship with the industry is needed

Building a strong relationship with the insurance industry has been a top priority for Burwell since becoming the head of HHS nine months ago, she said. “Your expertise is critical,” Burwell said. “Ultimately, we are all in the business of connecting folks to the care they need.”

That can be done by creating a robust enrollment strategy, Burwell said. “Together, we are moving the needle on our shared goal of getting Americans covered,” she said. “It’s about helping everyone find the financial security and peace of mind that comes with that coverage. With your help, there was a stable marketplace to serve customers.”

Future goals include a better user experience on and improving backend issues, Burwell said. She’s also committed to providing consumers with the necessary information needed to make smart health care selections.

“We all benefit from a system that delivers better care,” she said. “We can’t get there alone. That is where you all come in.”

The best way to deliver health care is to work together with the industry and use models that have worked in the private sector, Burwell said. “We want to work with you to get consumers the information they need to make informed choices and move from care to health,” she said. “We are asking for your expertise, and we are prepared to listen.”

Making certain consumers know how to use their coverage is another goal the industry and HHS share, Burwell said. HHS wants the industry’s input to help educate the public about health care, she said.

“We’re committed to building a smarter, better, healthier system,” Burwell said. “We’re committed to finding our common ground and staying focused on common cause, and we are committed to keep engaging you, being challenged by you and listening to you.

“We know that we won’t always agree, but I can promise you this, we will listen. And together we will deliver a better health care system that the American people both need and deserve.”

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