Sign-up pace much slower in week 4 of 2018 Obamacare enrollment

FILE PHOTO: A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro, San Diego, California, U.S., October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The pace of people signing up for individual insurance under Obamacare slowed significantly during the fourth week of 2018 enrollment, as nearly 37 percent fewer people signed up for the healthcare plans than in the previous week, a U.S. government agency reported on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that 504,181 people signed up for 2018 Obamacare individual insurance in the 39 states that use the federal government website for the week ended Nov. 25, down from 798,829 people in the previous week. New consumer sign-ups fell to 152,243 from 220,323 in the previous week.

Total sign-ups reached 2.78 million during the first four weeks of enrollment, which lasts through Dec. 15.

Despite the slowdown, enrollment is up from last year, according to Evercore ISI analyst Michael Newshel.

But surpassing last year’s mark will be challenging because President Donald Trump’s administration cut Obamacare advertising by 90 percent and shortened the enrollment period by half.

“Exchange enrollment could still end up more stable than initially feared,” Newshel said in a research note. “Ultimately the final outcome is still highly dependent on how strong the surge of new sign-ups is in the final days into the Dec. 15 deadline and also what happens off-exchange.”

The figures do not include enrollment in Washington, D.C., or the 11 states that run their own enrollment and websites. The subsidized individual insurance is part of former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, commonly known as Obamacare.

Reporting by Michael Erman; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis