Nearly 5,000 fewer Montanans signed up for health insurance coverage next year under the Affordable Care Act, according to preliminary numbers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said Thursday that 47,699 people in Montana signed up for a health insurance plan on the federal exchange during the open enrollment period, which ran from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, a shorter length than in years past. The coverage starts Jan. 1.

Last year 52,473 people enrolled, according to federal figures.

The numbers include new plan selections, active plan renewals and automatic enrollments, but do not reflect the number of consumers who paid premiums to start their coverage.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource and Montana Health Co-op sell plans on the exchange. 

This year Blue Cross had an average rate increase of 22.3 percent. Montana Health Co-op and PacificSource both had to increase their original request to raise rates because they had not accounted for the federal government eliminating cost-sharing reduction payments. The Co-op raised its rates an average of 16.6 percent and PacificSource an average of 13.1 percent.

Blue Cross is the largest insurer on the exchange, followed by the Co-op and then PacificSource.

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