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ACA enrollment is trailing last year's pace. Photo: AP/file

You've probably seen a lot of headlines saying Affordable Care Act enrollment is going well. But after the most recent update, released yesterday, we should probably all recalibrate our math. And when we do, enrollment won't look so hot.

What they're saying:

  • We're two weeks into the ACA's fifth open enrollment period, and 1.5 million people have picked plans through HealthCare.gov.
  • Two weeks into the last open enrollment period, just over 1 million people had picked plans through HealthCare.gov.
  • That's the comparison folks have been making, and it does make enrollment seem stronger than last year.

Here's why the math is incomplete: Last year's open enrollment season was three months long. This one is half that, at six weeks. So, we're already a third of the way through this enrollment period.

  • A third of the way through last year's enrollment season, more than 2.1 million people had signed up for coverage.
  • The 1.5 million who have signed up so far this year doesn't look quite as good when you compare it that way — but that's the more accurate comparison, Avalere's Caroline Pearson says.
  • By that measure, enrollment definitely isn't moving faster than last year — in fact, it's about 25% weaker.
  • Twice as many people need to sign up each week to end up with the same totals when all is said and done. And that's not happening.

Yes, but: As Pearson notes, it's hard to make a direct comparison because there tends to be a surge at the end of the enrollment period. So it's hard to map out a clean trend line.

Still, given that the pace of sign-ups is already slipping, this year's last-minute surge would have to be enormous to close the gap. And it's hard to have an enormous surge without any official marketing or outreach encouraging people to sign up.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.