- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2013

A new report by The Commonwealth Fund says enrollment in Obamacare’s insurance exchanges has reached at least a half million people, a key measure as the Obama administration attempts to sell its law to a skeptical public and to Republicans who are fed up with the White House changing the rules midstream ahead of the new year.

The latest enrollment figures are based on existing federal data and more up-to-date figures from the exchanges run by 14 states and the District of Columbia. It does not account for enrollment over the last nine days on  HealthCare.gov — the federal portal that serves 36 states — “which is also likely to have grown substantially in December,” the report by researchers Sara Collins and Tracy Garber said.

The Obama administration is emphasizing the quickening pace of enrollment on markets tied to the law, now that it has improved the federal portal and some of the states are enhancing their own websites. 

Earlier this month, the administration said roughly 365,000 people nationwide had chosen a plan. 

Enrollment data will be officially updated next month, but White House advisors are touting state-based evidence of spikes in enrollment, particularly in California, New York and Kentucky.

Still, the pace of enrollment is lagging behind overall goals for the inaugural period of open enrollment, which began Oct. 1 and lasts until March 31.

“Not accounting for the probable gains in enrollment in the federal marketplaces over the last couple weeks and greater gains at the state level, enrollment is about 7.5 percent of the 7 million people that the Congressional Budget Office projected will gain coverage through the marketplaces next year, up from 2.9 percent in mid-November,” the Commonwealth Fund’s report said.

The Obama administration is also trying to stem the political fallout from the millions of people who lost existing plans that did not meet the health care law’s coverage requirements. 

It’s granted a number of allowances to make sure these people do not face a coverage gap in January. Most recently, it said people who lost coverage could claim a hardship exemption from the law’s individual mandate and purchase a catastrophic-level plan, if they cannot afford a better one on the Obamacare exchanges.

The report can be found at http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Blog/2013/Dec/Enrollment-Climbs.aspx?omnicid=20.