Obamacare Enrollment Hits 3 Million Milestone
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The Fiscal Times
January 24, 2014

More than 800,000 people signed up for health coverage on the new insurance exchanges so far in January bringing the total of Obamacare enrollees to 3 million since the law’s troubled launch on Oct 1.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, posted a blog on Friday saying they are on track to hit 1 million by the end of the month.

Related: White House Claims it Will Reach Obamacare Goal

The surge in January enrollments comes on top of the 2.2 million people who have already signed up for coverage from Oct 1 through December. What we don’t know, however, is how many of these people have actually paid for their plans. The figures simply reflect who has selected a policy.

“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. “As our outreach efforts kick into even higher gear, we anticipate these numbers will continue to grow.”

Of course, the numbers are still well below the administration’s original goal of signing up 7 million people before the end of the open enrollment period on March 31. Recent data also suggest that many of these enrollees are not among the uninsured.

Officials have recently played down the importance of the 7 million figure and instead are focused on getting the right balance of young and healthy people to sign up in order to offset the costs for older, sicker Americans.

Related: More Companies Dump Employee Insurance for Obamacare

It is still unclear, however, what the mix is shaping up to be. Earlier this month, the administration disclosed a first look at the demographic mix of enrollees, which showed that young Americans ages 18-34 accounted for 24 percent of total sign ups. The White House is aiming for 40 percent in order for the law to be successful.

Of course, there are still three months left before the end of the enrollment period on March 31, and both insurers and officials are counting on young people to sign up at the last minute, as they did in Massachusetts.

Another important question the figures do not answer is how many of the new enrollees previously lacked health coverage. This is important since a key goal of the healthcare reform law was to extend access to coverage for the millions of uninsured Americans.

However, due to a spate of cancelled policies and other changes in the health care law, many of the people signing up for Obamacare already had health insurance, and were either forced to switch or found a better deal on the exchanges. A McKinsey & Co. survey highlighted in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week found only 11 percent of Obamacare enrollees previously lacked health insurance, everyone else already had coverage.

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.