More Than 4 Million People Have Signed Up for Obamacare, White House Says

TUESDAY, March 11, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- More than 4 million Americans have signed up for health coverage through state and federal insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

About 4.2 million people had selected a health plan through the end of February, with slightly less than one month to go before enrollment ends March 31, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a news conference.

That includes 2.6 million sign-ups through the federal marketplace at HealthCare.gov, and 1.6 million through state-operated marketplaces.

Obama administration officials are banking on a last-minute surge in sign-ups as the days tick off to the end of open enrollment.

"We're finding that as Americans find out how affordable marketplace plans are, more are signing up," Sebelius said. "It's not too late for Americans to sign up and get covered, but they'll want to do it today as we approach that March 31 deadline."

The number of people who have signed up for one of the new marketplace health plans remains short of some predictions, however. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office had projected 6 million sign-ups in 2014.

Administration officials declined Tuesday to predict whether they will meet the enrollment goal of 6 million, instead emphasizing that they expect a surge in March.

"We are confident that millions more will continue to enroll, many of them coming in before the March 31 deadline," said Julie Bataille, director of communications for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The troubled October launch of the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace website, and technical difficulties experienced by some state exchanges, made enrolling difficult, if not impossible, in the early days and weeks of enrollment last fall.

White House officials argue that they have turned things around, specifically pointing to the percentage of young adults who chose a plan in February. About 27 percent of February enrollments involved adults aged 18 to 35, which is three percentage points higher than October through December.

Young adults' participation in the Affordable Care Act is considered crucial to the success of the controversial health-reform law, because their premiums will help to cover older adults who tend to be more prone to illness and disease.

To reach more young adults, President Barack Obama on Tuesday made an appearance on comedian Zack Galifinakis' web-based spoof talk show, "Between Two Ferns," to plug HealthCare.gov.

The president's appearance prompted more than 19,000 people to click on a link to HealthCare.gov to learn more information, Bataille said.

The administration still hasn't reported the number of marketplace enrollees who were previously uninsured. And it hasn't said how many have paid their first month's premium -- a prerequisite for health insurance coverage.

Administration officials based their confidence in a last-minute enrollment surge on what happened during the 2003 rollout of Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program for seniors. More than 1 million beneficiaries enrolled during the last week of Part D's open enrollment program, which had lasted for six months.

Officials said that of the people who so far have selected a marketplace health plan:

  • 55 percent are female and 45 percent are male,

  • 31 percent are age 34 and under,

  • 25 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34,

  • 63 percent selected a Silver plan, while 18 percent selected a Bronze plan,

  • 83 percent are eligible to receive financial assistance.

More information

Visit HealthCare.gov to learn about the new health plan options.

SOURCES: March 11, 2014 news conference with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Julie Bataille, director, communications, U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; March 11, 2014, news release, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services