Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers
for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), announced the preliminary
tally in a blog posting. She forecast that enrollment through new
federal and state health insurance marketplaces would continue to
grow in coming weeks as a public outreach campaign accelerates.
The new data adds to evidence that President Barack Obama's
administration has turned the corner on enrollment after a botched
October 1 launch. It also shows that officials might still reach
their initial goal of signing up 7 million people for private
coverage by the time enrollment ends on March 31.
Analysts say Obama could highlight the 3 million number as a sign of
progress when he addresses the topic of healthcare reform in his
State of the Union speech on Tuesday.
The administration did not say how many of the new enrollees are
young adults needed to ensure the success of Obamacare. Officials
are relying on significant participation among healthy young adults
to help offset costs from older enrollees and prevent insurers from
raising their rates.
The latest tally is close to the 3.3 million mark that the
administration originally expected by January 1 and reflects a
January gain of about 800,000 enrollees, or 36 percent, from the 2.2
million total reported earlier this month for the October 1 through
December 28 period.
"We can now safely say that the exchanges will be stable," said
Topher Spiro of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning
think tank aligned with the Obama administration.
The figure was likely to include consumers who sought retroactive
January coverage after December 31. At the urging of the Obama
administration, some plans have allowed consumers to sign up late
for coverage beginning January 1. Maryland's state-run marketplace
said on Friday that about 1,400 households have opted for
retroactive enrollment through its marketplace.
Earlier this week, the administration also announced that the number
of people eligible for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance
Program (CHIP) rose to 6.3 million this month as a result of the
enrollment effort. Medicaid and CHIP both benefit poor people and
their expansion represents an integral part of the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"With millions transitioning to new coverage already, we continue to
see strong interest nationwide from consumers who want access to
quality, affordable coverage," Tavenner said in a blog posted on a
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Web page.
"As our outreach efforts kick into even higher gear, we anticipate
these numbers will continue to grow, particularly as we reach even
more uninsured young adults."
Tavenner's CMS is the HHS agency responsible for implementing most
of the healthcare reform law.
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Administration officials have expressed growing confidence in the
ultimate success of Obama's signature domestic policy since late
last year, when an emergency effort to fix crippling glitches at the
federal website, HealthCare.gov, finally allowed millions of people
to visit the site and enroll for coverage without incident.
"We made a comeback in December and we're hitting our stride," Dr.
Mandy Cohen, a senior adviser to Tavenner, said this week at a
conference hosted by the group Families USA, which advocates for
Much of the success has come from the 15 marketplaces run by states
and the District of Columbia. California has reported more than
625,000 private health insurance enrollment since October 1, and New
York has announced a daily enrollment pace of 7,000 people for
private insurance and Medicaid in January.
But administration officials acknowledge they still have a long way
The Obamacare marketplaces, which have been set up in all 50 states,
offer private health insurance with subsidies to help pay premiums
and other expenses for people with lower incomes.
But so far, three-quarters of enrollees have been older and sicker
policyholders, whose greater need for health services means higher
costs for insurers. The administration has said it wants 38 percent
of the market to consist of younger adults, aged 18 to 34, whose
lower healthcare costs would help keep overall costs in line.
After tackling HealthCare.gov's problems last year, the
administration also needs to complete construction of the federal
health insurance marketplace that serves 36 states. Many automated
functions have yet to be built, including the software application
for distributing federal subsidies owed to insurers for covering
(Editing by Karey Van Hall, Andre Grenon
and Amanda Kwan)
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