POLITICS

Obamacare Signups Top 11 Million In Second Year, White House Says

02/17/2015 07:54 pm ET | Updated Feb 17, 2015
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has beaten its own projections for Obamacare enrollments, which exceeded 11 million through Sunday's deadline for most U.S. residents to choose a health insurance plan, the White House announced Tuesday.

In a video posted to Facebook, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell informs President Barack Obama of preliminary estimates of this year's signups. The three-month enrollment period all but ended Sunday, but federal and state officials are allowing consumers who began applications prior to the deadline to complete them.

"We just got great news today, which is that during this open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, 11.4 million people have either re-enrolled or enrolled for first the first time," Obama says on the video. "It gives you some sense of how hungry people were out there for affordable, accessible health insurance."

Prior to the Nov. 15 kickoff of this year's enrollment campaign, the Department of Health and Human Services set a target of 10.3 million to 11.2 million people enrolled in private policies obtained via the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges by the close of the signup period. Tuesday's announcement shows the exchange marketplaces have bested that goal before the final accounting is made. The department projects a smaller number, 9 million to 9.9 million, will have this coverage at the end of the year.

Sunday was the biggest day for Obamacare enrollment to date during the signup periods for 2014 and 2015, Burwell says on the video. The new enrollment data includes signups from federally run health insurance exchanges on HealthCare.gov in 37 states, as well as from those operated by 13 states and the District of Columbia.

More than 1 million people signed up for a health plan during the last nine days of enrollment, according to a senior administration official. Of the 11.4 million enrollees, 8.6 million came from federally managed exchanges and 2.8 million from state-run marketplaces, the official said.

The White House didn't reveal how many of the 11.4 million enrollees are renewing coverage from last year and how many are new to the marketplaces.

Burwell is considering re-opening enrollment around tax-filing season in April, when as many as 6 million people may learn they owe a fine for not having health coverage under Obamacare's individual mandate. Some congressional Democrats and consumer advocates have pleaded with the Department of Health and Human Services to allow people who owe the individual mandate penalty to instead buy insurance. Burwell will announce her intentions within weeks, Bloomberg News reported last week. Washington state already has extended its enrollment period until April, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The enrollment tally is bound to come down in the coming months. The figures disclosed Tuesday don't factor in whether customers have paid their first premium, which is necessary to secure coverage. In 2014, enrollment surpassed 8 million in April after a six-month signup period, but fell below 7 million by October as consumers switched to other forms of health coverage or simply allowed their policies to lapse. Federal authorities also canceled coverage for hundreds of thousands of people who could not verify their citizenship or legal residency status.

Although Sunday technically was the deadline for applying for subsidies and enrolling into health coverage for this year, federal and state health insurance exchange authorities are giving would-be customers extra time to complete applications and select a policy if they began the process before the deadline, or encountered problems accessing the systems. People using a federal exchange have until Feb. 22; the final date varies among the other states.

Last-minute technical problems and long waits for assistance on telephone hotlines prompted the extensions, which are similar to those instituted when the first enrollment period ended last March. In addition, 28 states are allowing people to sign up for health insurance beyond the Feb. 15 deadline, if they aren't also applying for subsidies, according to eHealth, an online insurance broker.

People who experience a change in life circumstances, such as marrying or having a child, can access the health insurance exchanges year-round. The enrollment numbers announced Tuesday don't include people who signed up for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program this year. There is no deadline to enroll in those programs for low-income households.

Watch the White House video on Obamacare enrollment:

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