Only about 106,000 Americans enrolled in Obamacare’s health care exchanges during the first month and fewer than 27,000 of those were from the federally run exchanges, the administration said Wednesday, finally releasing numbers showing just how rocky the rollout has been for President Obama’s signature initiative.
The administration needs about 7 million people to enroll by the end of March, or an average of more than 1 million a month. October’s figure is little more than 10 percent of that monthly goal.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius vowed to do better, blaming the first-month numbers on the glitchy HealthCare.gov website that the federal government set up to help consumers in 36 states buy insurance.
Still, she claimed victory from the fact that some people were able to sign up.
“The marketplace is working, people are enrolling,” Mrs. Sebelius told reporters on a conference call.
But Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said the administration is “overinflating the numbers by including folks shopping for a plan — not just looking at who’s signed up.”
“At this pace,” he said, “the Obama administration will never be able to meet their enrollment goals.”
Officials said 106,185 people had selected a health care plan on either the federal exchange system or one of 15 state-based health care exchanges from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2.
The numbers were released after Republicans on the House’s top investigative committee dug into a laundry list of technical problems plaguing the federal website and the administration sought to allay growing anxiety among Democrats about the millions of Americans being knocked off their insurance plans despite President Obama’s oft-repeated vow that “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”
After a Capitol Hill meeting with Democrats, the White House said it would consider legislation to thwart the cancellations and went as far as to praise a proposal by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, that would allow people to keep their policies.
Republicans and even some Democrats pursued a plan to delay the deadline for buying insurance.
On Wednesday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, introduced a two-month extension for enrollment and for the individual mandate penalty, which requires enrollment by year’s end.
“It’s not fair to penalize people for not having health insurance because of a broken website,” she said.
The administration predicted a slow start, but Republican critics said enrollment was still well shy of Mr. Obama’s goal of nearly 500,000 enrollees in the first month — a figure outlined in an internal memo circulated on Capitol Hill.
The administration said overall interest was high, even if enrollment wasn’t. They said nearly 1.1 million people have logged on and been deemed eligible to enroll in an Obamacare plan.