- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Like so much about the government’s health care overhaul, Monday’s deadline to sign up for coverage in 2014 didn’t turn out quite as planned: Many people still are eligible for extensions that will let them enroll.

The change of plans shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given the disastrous HealthCare.gov rollout last fall, the mass policy cancellation notices that shocked even the president, and other set-in-law deadlines that turned out not to be not so firm.

Still, step by step, the law is taking effect. People are signing up. Insurance is kicking in or changing for millions of Americans.

It’s time for a status report as the law marks a milestone, although no one’s quite sure how to define success:

Q: How many people have gotten coverage?

A: That’s the big question, and the answer is a moving target. About 6 million people have signed up for private insurance through the new state and federal marketplaces, and several million more have gotten insurance through expanded Medicaid coverage under the health care law. But a lot of those people switched over from other plans, so the net increase isn’t known. Also, under changes that kicked in during 2010, 3 million young adults up to age 26 have gotten coverage under their parents’ plans.

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Q: Do those numbers meet government expectations?

A: It depends on which expectations. Initially, the government had hoped to sign up 7 million through the marketplace exchanges by March 31. It ditched that number after HealthCare.gov experienced near-paralysis when it launched last fall. The new target became 6 million signed up through the exchanges. The administration is giving many people extra time to finish signing up, hoping for a robust number at the end. Monday night, government officials told The Associated Press the original 7 million target was in sight.

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Q: What happened to the March 31 deadline?

A: It’s still there. It’s just that a lot of people don’t have to meet it. The government last week announced “special enrollment periods” for two big groups of people: those who have started an application but didn’t manage to finish the complicated enrollment process by Monday, and people dealing with “special circumstances” such as natural disasters, technical difficulties, family problems, complications related to immigration status and more.

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Q: In general, who’s already signed up?

A: Mostly people who didn’t have insurance through their jobs, many of them with modest incomes. More than half are women.

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