Fewer than 365,000 Americans have successfully selected private health insurance plans on the federal health care exchange in the first two months of the program, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The administration originally projected that 500,000 people would enroll in just the month of October on the individual market.
Despite the early technical failures of President Barack Obama’s flagship health care law, Director of the Office of Health Reform Michael Hash said in a call with reporters that he still thinks it can meet the Congressional Budget Office’s original projection of 7 million enrollees by March 31.
“As many more Americans learn about the options available to them at the marketplace, we have every reason to believe interest will continue to grow and enrollment will continue to rise,” Hash said.
Of the 3.7 million people that applied for Obamacare during the period covered by the report — Oct. 1 to Nov. 30 — 2.3 million people have been found eligible to enroll. There are at least 1.9 million people that have been approved but have not yet chosen a plan.
Overall, about 1.2 million people have gained coverage, when Medicaid enrollment numbers are included.
As website glitches continue to be resolved — Hash said the website is like “night and day” from Oct. 1 — enrollment numbers have trended upward. According to the report, enrollment in the federal exchange quadrupled from October to November.
State-run exchanges continue to outperform the federal one. The latest report shows that 227,478 Americans enrolled in state exchanges while 137,204 have enrolled in the federal one.
With 250,838 completed applications, California has the most enrollees of any state. Florida, with 150,142, has the highest number of enrollees for any federally run or assisted exchange.
Administration officials would not provide month-by-month enrollment numbers. Cumulative numbers, HHS said in a statement, provide “the best snapshot of Marketplace enrollment activity,” as some people can apply in one month but finally select a plan in another.
Julie Bataille, spokeswoman Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said on the call with reporters that particular focus will go toward those who started the application process but were unable to finish because of website issues.
That includes resolving issues with 834 errors, which are backend system errors that can lead to missing, duplicate, or erroneous information sent to insurers after a customer believes they successfully applied for Obamacare.
Bataille said the administration is communicating daily with insurers to correct these errors and to ensure future ones don’t happen. She would not say directly if she could guarantee everyone who wants to enroll by Dec. 23, the deadline to be covered starting Jan. 1, would be able to.
“There’s a tremendous demand for this product and millions of Americans are seeking plans,” Bataille said.
In separate news on the exchange, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also announced Wednesday morning that she has requested an inspector general investigation into the management and contracting decisions behind the website issues. She will appear before lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
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