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Fewer people paying for Obamacare in 2017

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A new federal report shows that 10.3 million people paid their Obamacare premiums this year out of the 12.2 million who signed up during open enrollment. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

A new federal report shows that 10.3 million people paid their Obamacare premiums this year of the 12.2 million who signed up during open enrollment.

The report released Monday, which included data through March 15, found that cost was the major driver for people dropping out. It comes as the health of Obamacare's exchanges is being heavily scrutinized during the congressional debate over repealing the law.

The report from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that in March 2016, 10.8 million people paid their premiums out of the 12.7 million that signed up for open enrollment that year. However, that number dropped to 9.1 million by the end of 2016.

A survey found that 49 percent of consumers who terminated their plans after paying at least one month's premium this year said they received coverage elsewhere. Of that 49 percent, 58 percent of said they received coverage elsewhere and 22 percent said they were eligible for Medicare.

Another 27 percent cited cost as the reason.

About 46 percent of consumers who canceled before paying their first payment cited cost, with 17 percent saying they were ineligible for financial assistance, the report said.

"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.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price used the report to ding Obamacare.

"Many individuals and families across the country are tired of having their healthcare options dictated to them by Washington – particularly when those limited options are unaffordable," he said.

A report last year from the Department of Health and Human Services found that the average Obamacare plan's premiums were estimated to jump by about 25 percent.

The report also outlined the brunt of who may be affected if the White House fails to pay cost-sharing reduction subsidies to insurers. The subsidies reimburse insurers for lowering co-pays and deductibles for low-income Obamacare customers.

Of the 10.3 million people who paid premiums this year, 5.8 million received cost-sharing reductions as of February, the report said.

The state with the highest number of recipients of cost-sharing subsidies was Florida with about 1 million. Coming in second was California with 673,104 people.

The health of Obamacare's exchanges has become fodder for political attacks from both Republicans and Democrats as the Senate aims to take up its version of a healthcare reform bill by the end of July.

Republicans charge that the high premiums insurers proposed for 2018 are evidence of the law's collapse. Democrats counter that the Trump administration is trying to sabotage Obamacare, pointing to the reluctance to pay the CSRs.