The website is seen on a computer screen in New York, Oct. 23, 2018. The sign-up period for next year’s individual health insurance coverage runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Picking a plan can initially involve several trips to websites like just to understand the options. Shoppers who want to stick with the same plan must scrutinize it for changes. Credit: Patrick Sison | AP

Sign-ups for next year’s Affordable Care Act marketplace plans are down nationwide, and in Maine.

According to federal data, in the first three weeks of enrollment, a little under 14,000 Mainers signed up, compared with nearly 20,000 during the same timeframe last year.

Kate Ende of Consumers for Affordable Health Care said one possible factor is the elimination of the penalty that requires individuals to purchase insurance, which goes into effect next year.

“That was an incentive for a lot of people to purchase insurance prior to that,” she said.

The Trump administration has significantly reduced federal funding for state navigator programs, which help consumers sign up for insurance. Maine’s funding was reduced from about $600,000 to $100,000.

Andi Pelletier of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association said that resulted in the end of navigator services that the organization had offered to its members.

“This has been going on for five years, we’ve worked really hard, we have a good relationship, I think, with people,” Pelletier said. “And certainly the last two years, people knew that we were here and that we were a resource.”

Pelletier said some members still call in seeking information about health insurance, and are directed elsewhere.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.