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White House: Obamacare sign-ups hit 6 million

The number of people enrolled in the health care exchanges surpassed the revised CBO estimate.

By Money Staff Mar 28, 2014 12:37PM

This post comes from Louise Radnofsky and Colleen McCain Nelson at partner site The Wall Street Journal.


The Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneyThe White House said the Affordable Care Act crossed a key threshold as it announced Thursday that more than six million people have signed up for private health coverage through state and federal insurance exchanges.


The number, released days before the Monday deadline for most people to enroll for this year, surpasses the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's revised estimate that six million people would enroll in private health plans for 2014 -- down from its initial forecast of seven million.


But left unclear was how many of those signing up had been uninsured -- a key aim of the law -- and whether they include many of the young and mostly healthy Americans needed to keep costs in check, and whether those signing up have actually paid premiums to bring the insurance coverage into effect.


Supporters of the law called the enrollment total a milestone that shows the Affordable Care Act had turned the corner after its disastrous rollout.  The federal HealthCare.gov exchange had such crippling technological problems that on the first day of enrollment in October, only six people completed applications for insurance, according to internal federal health-agency documents.


"Signing up more than 6 million Americans is the latest indication that the health law is working," said Tara McGuinness, a White House senior communications adviser.


Opponents of the law said the figure had little meaning given the lack of detail so far on the makeup of the enrollees. "I think those numbers are a fantasy," said Rep. Michael Burgess, (R., Texas). "How many of these people previously had insurance?"


The administration has referred questions about how many people have paid their first month's premiums, the final step in enrolling, to insurers, who generally have declined to give firm numbers. Federal officials also have said they don't know how many had gained coverage after being previously uninsured, though they have pointed to other surveys that suggest a majority were previously insured.


Firm numbers also aren't yet available for how many additional people have enrolled in Medicaid as a result of the expansion of eligibility for the program in 25 states, though supporters of the law have said they are in the millions.


The White House, in a statement, described consumer interest in insurance coverage as "surging" in the final days of open enrollment. It said the site was visited 1.5 million times on Wednesday and the call center received 430,000 phone inquiries. Officials emphasized that more work remained before they'd consider the enrollment period a success.


The goal of President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act was to create a system of near-universal insurance for Americans using online exchanges where policies would be sold without regard to people's medical histories.


But during HealthCare.gov's first few weeks in operation, it malfunctioned so badly that enrollment remained at a trickle. Big insurance companies pulled back on advertising because they didn't want to send shoppers to a broken site. The White House also tapped the brakes on its enrollment effort, and Mr. Obama established a "war room" to fix the exchange.
Technicians made significant improvements to the site before a Dec. 1 deadline and by year's end, 2.1 million people had signed up for policies, though the site has continued to malfunction periodically.


Pills with computer © Tom Grill, Getty ImagesThe White House began to implement the full complement of its outreach efforts in January. That included a 25-city "layered" plan targeting dense populations of the uninsured with media interviews by administration officials and enrollment fairs by outside groups.


It wasn't until mid-February that the White House began to see the impact of that effort, and enrollment started picking up in March. "We felt like we were making a difference," a senior administration official said.


In the last few weeks, this official said, the administration believes its attempt to use new media also helped attract young people. Particularly effective were an Obama appearance on Zach Galifianakis's spoof talk show "Between Two Ferns," an event at the White House with YouTube personalities and a commercial featuring NBA star LeBron James, this official said.


Exchanges, health insurers and health-care providers all stepped up marketing efforts in recent weeks. AltaMed Health Services Corp., a nonprofit with more than 40 clinics in southern California serving largely Hispanic patients, is operating two enrollment centers and has been running ads on radio and elsewhere. Its weekly call volume mounted to around 1,700 last week, then shot up to around 2,000 each day on Monday and Tuesday, said Cástulo de la Rocha, AltaMed's chief executive. "The rush is huge," he said, and he expects it to grow in the final days.


The site appears to have been able to withstand the technical strain placed upon it this week. On Monday and Tuesday, HealthCare.gov processed more than 100,000 enrollments each day, said one person familiar with its performance. The site was also averaging about 40,000 simultaneous users, up from about 20,000 users two weeks ago, said the person.


But the administration also this week prepared for the possibility of technical problems as applicants flock to the site before Monday's deadline. It said that people who are "in line" on Monday will be allowed to finish their applications after the deadline has passed.


As late as this week, there were three million people in the system who had started but not completed applications, according to federal data. HealthCare.gov has also begun sending about two million email reminders of the deadline every two days to people who have begun an application but haven't picked a plan.


Vincent Garcia, age 24, chose a SelectHealth plan earlier this week that would cost him $24 a month, after federal subsidies. Mr. Garcia, a Salt Lake City urinalysis technician, hasn't had insurance in four years.


Up until a week and a half ago, he was aware of the law from radio and newspaper stories, but not particularly interested. But then he picked up a bad cough last week and decided to apply for coverage through a local broker, Insurance 2.0.


"I would have avoided it but for the fact that there are penalties for not having insurance, and I came to the conscious awareness that I should get insurance," he said.


-- Carol E. Lee, Jennifer Corbett Dooren, Christopher Weaver and Anna Wilde Mathews contributed to this article.


More from The Wall Street Journal

12Comments
Mar 28, 2014 1:03PM
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6 million people signed up...allegedly.   How many of them actually paid their premium?   Reminds me of the "millions of jobs that were saved or created" because of the stimulus bill...allegedly.

Lest we forget, the 6 million figure is coming directly from the White House.   Has anything close to accurate or truthful come out of there in the last 5 years?
Mar 28, 2014 1:29PM
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If I can get something for nothing, why wouldn't I sign up for it? It's nice to have somebody else pay for it. Just remember I will return the favor by eating out less and going out to movies less and watch my spending, and you lazy whiners will lose your jobs. You can't win.
Mar 28, 2014 1:16PM
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6 million sick freeloaders. How wonderful.
Mar 28, 2014 1:58PM
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1. Still in the hole for the 7 million that lost their insurance.

 

2. After all the other lies, can you believe anything that comes out of the White House regarding Obamacare?

Mar 28, 2014 1:34PM
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I love the $12,000 deductible policy which was the only one my daughter could afford. My contractor friends have  $800-$13000 a month policies with $6000-$12,000 deductibles.  They aren't eligible for subsidies...wow, those are SO affordable, but they have insurance, so the Administration is smugly satisfied. Lets hope no one gets sick or injured, no one can afford $8-12 up front for care with the high premiums they are paying. Before they had emergency room care after a $750 deductible  and primary care covered  for a $30 co pay,, this is SO much better.  Even the people I know who get the cushy big subsidies on their premiums can't afford their deductibles,  Oh, and the only plans daughter can afford don't have the doctors her children go to, and there are less of them, BIG waiting list to be seen by the ones they have.  Lol, the care is covered, lots of luck getting it though. I shouldn't be surprised,, my waiting list is already about 3 months out now.  Lots of new patients, no new Providers, and we aren't getting any more, got to save money. As a practitioner I'm not even going to start in how I am now being forced to "treat" my patients, and it's going to get worse, we are already being briefed. It's not about real care or access, the big focus of ACA is cutting costs.  In fact limiting access and providers are two of the biggest ways ACA intends  to do that. It also saves by cutting Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.  Other practitioners have showed me their letters with Mediciad/Medicare offering them $8-12 to see patients.  Are you kidding me?  No wonder doctors are dropping those patients.  The documentation and paperwork required is enough on it's own to convince you not to take those patients.  And all of this is supposed to be Reform..Sorry, I just can't say enough about all the good things my family, friends, co-workers, and I are experiencing with this.
Mar 28, 2014 2:14PM
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6 million were canceled due to the mandate, 6 million signed up.  Why did we spend billions?
Mar 28, 2014 3:54PM
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Just like everything surrounding Obama and coming from Obama and his media publicists, I say bulls**t.
Mar 28, 2014 2:57PM
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When the total hit 4 million they said 87% qualified for a subsidy. Notice they didn't give that percentage this time. Assuming it is still 87% that equals to 5,220,000 leaving 780,000. So my questions:

1) What exactly is the percentage?

2) What are the demographics of those signed up?

3) How many have actually paid their first premium payment?

4) How many were previously uninsured and how many were canceled?

5) What are their deductibles and co-pays?

and

6) When the 780,000 cannot generate enough revenue to cover the premiums of the 5,220,000 who will pay the difference?

Mar 28, 2014 3:12PM
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"But then he picked up a bad cough last week and decided to apply.."  Does anyone see the falacy of this whole scam?  Garcia is paying $24 a month for health insurance but didn't want it till he got sick.  How many tens of thousands are going to get insurance only whenever they are going to need major hospitalization?  Maybe I'll wait till the house is on fire before getting homeowner's insurance.  Hmmmmmm. 
Mar 30, 2014 10:18AM
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I have a friend who has several major health issues and worked for a very small company that had no heath plan; he was never able to get insurance because existing conditions made the premiums too high even with a $2000/year deductible.  He recently attempted to get Obamacare, after failing multiple times to enroll online, he finally got a Navigator to help him.  After going through several different plans, the Navigator came up with plan whose subsidy covered all but $4.00 per month.  $4.00 a month for a Bronze pan sounded great until he was told the deductible was  $8000/year and had to be met before his plan actually paid for ANYTHING!!! It's not hard to guess that he is choosing to pay the penalty for not signing up!  So the question is, how did Obamacare help him in any way??
Mar 30, 2014 9:56AM
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OK, are there still people out there who believe ANYTHING that the White House says anymore????
Mar 28, 2014 7:28PM
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We need to end this doctors for everyone nonsense.We need to elect a real republican leader that will help destroy all the socialism passed in the last century,obamacare,welfare,foodstamps,section8 and social security.Look what we have because of it.Our old are living far too long and our unemployed are lazy or worse arrogant
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