With the March 31 enrollment deadline only two weeks
away, a top administration official reported a big upswing in public
interest in subsidized health insurance and said traffic on the
federal website HealthCare.gov reached 1 million visitors over the
"The last several days have been the busiest since December,"
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services, said in a government blog posting that announced
the new total.
The 5 million enrollee total marked an increase of at least 800,000
people since March 1, indicating that total enrollment could
approach the 6 million figure estimated by the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office if enrollment surges in the final weeks
as administration officials have predicted.
The CBO initially forecast 7 million enrollees in private health
coverage, but scaled back its estimate after technical problems with
the rollout that continue to afflict Obamacare insurance
marketplaces operated by several states.
Monday's release did not say how many new enrollees were adults aged
18 to 34, a younger demographic whose participation is seen as
essential for the success of President Barack Obama's signature
domestic policy achievement.
Before the rollout, administration officials said their goal was for
38 percent of the new online private insurance marketplaces to
consist of younger consumers, who compensate for older, sicker
enrollees because they tend to be healthy and cheaper to ensure. But
the data so far shows young adults accounting for only one-quarter
Another important section consists of people signing up for
insurance for the first time, a group that also tends to be healthy.
The administration says it has no data for that group, but the
consulting firm McKinsey & Co in a report this month put the number
at around 27 percent of the total enrollees
Too few healthy beneficiaries could cause healthcare costs to rise
as insurers grapple with higher insurance risks posed by
policyholders who are sick or older.
"Five million is only a good number if it's mostly people who didn't
have insurance before," said Joe Antos of the conservative American
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MARCH 31 DEADLINE
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to extend
health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans through the
private marketplaces and an expansion of the Medicaid program for
But the 2010 law's implementation has been dogged by delays,
legal challenges and political attacks from Republicans and other
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told
Congress last week that the administration would not extend the
March 31 enrollment deadline.
But the law allows people who have difficulty signing up for
coverage to arrange for special enrollment periods. With huge
volumes expected in the final days of the open enrollment period,
analysts say 2014 enrollment may not reach its final total until
sometime after March.
Separately, California's state health insurance exchange said on
Monday its enrollment passed the 1 million mark, with 1,018,315
people selecting a health plan through the exchange as of Saturday.
Those numbers are part of the Obamacare enrollment figures.
"California continues to lead the nation in the implementation of
the Affordable Care Act and the numbers released today illustrate
strong progress in the push to expand health care coverage as we
head into the final weeks of open enrollment," California Assocation
of Health Plans' Chief Executive Patrick Johnston said in a
(Editing by Chris Reese, Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney)
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