The Department of Health and Human Services found that nearly 2 million health care applicants who had signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act for 2017 were not enrolled by mid-March.
On June 12, the HHS Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services disclosed that that, while 12.2 million Americans signed up for coverage under the ACA by the Jan. 31 deadline, only 10.3 million were enrolled by the middle of March 15.
The Trump administration asserted that the deficit of 1.9 million enrollees was further evidence that the ACA -- commonly called "Obamacare" -- is untenable and must be repealed, while critics have accused the HHS of manipulating the data to undermine the Obama administration's health care law.
The CMS report noted that only 10.3 million of the ACA enrollees had paid premiums to maintain their coverage by March 15.
"Consumers are sending a clear message that cost and affordability are major factors in their decision to cancel or terminate coverage," CMS administrator Seema Verma said, according to The Daily Caller.
The implication would be that nearly 2 million ACA enrollees had to discontinue their 2017 coverage because they could not afford premium payments under the health care law.
HHS Secretary Tom Price responded to the CMS report with a statement asserting that rising premium costs further justified GOP lawmakers' attempts to repeal and replace the ACA.
"Not surprisingly, as costs continue to go up, fewer Americans can afford to pay more and get less for health care," Price said. "Many individuals and families across the country are tired of having their health care options dictated to them by Washington -- particularly when those limited options are unaffordable."
Charles Gaba of ACA Signups has contested the HHS findings, asserting that the presented data on enrollees are cherry-picked and misleading, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Since the ACA's implementation, there has been a margin of enrollees deciding to stop making premium payments each year. In 2015, only 87 percent of Americans signed up for the ACA made their premium payments by March 31. In 2016, a similar 87 percent also made their payment by March 31.
While the CMS' latest report indicates that 84.6 percent of ACA enrollees made their premium payments in 2017 -- which would be a drop from previous years -- it also shortened the timeframe for their measurement.
While the HHS had based its findings in 2015 and 2016 on a timeframe between Jan. 15 through March 31, this year it drew its numbers from Jan. 31 through March 15.
Gab asserted that, if the CMS report used the same timeframe used in its previous reports in 2015 and 2016, it would have found the retention rate in 2017 was actually 88.2 percent.
In 2017, premiums under the ACA have undoubtedly risen. At the beginning of the year, premiums for the ACA's benchmark coverage plan rose by an average 22 percent. As of February, roughly 84 percent of ACA enrollees qualified for federal subsidies that would cover at least 90 percent of those premiums, according to CNN Money.