- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2015

More than 11 million people selected a health plan under Obamacare during the enrollment period that ended Sunday, the White House announced Tuesday in the first peak at how many customers flocked to the exchanges in the law’s second round.

In a video released by the White, House, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell divulges to President Obama that 11.4 million people signed up for private coverage under the law, although it is unclear how many customers will effectuate enrollment by paying their first premiums.

“That’s great,” President Obama says in the clip.

Mr. Obama then extolls his overhaul, saying enrollment exceeded his expectations.

The administration set a modest goal of 9.1 million enrollees for 2015, or short of congressional budget estimates that put the target at 12 million.

This year’s enrollment season began Nov. 15 and lasted half as long as last year’s signup period. And unlike last time around, the session included both new and returning customers.

The law’s web portals also functioned much better than last year’s round, which was marred by technical glitches and sliding deadlines to get covered.

By late 2014, government officials said 7.1 million Americans were still enrolled in coverage from the exchanges — a figure that was reduced to 6.7 million when House Republicans realized the administration had lumped in 400,000 dental plans with the enrollment tally.

Customers in 37 states that use the federal exchange known as HealthCare.gov have until Feb. 22 to complete any applications they began ahead of Sunday’s deadline, the administration said Monday.

Several of the exchanges run by 16 states and the District of Columbia have set their own deadlines for enrollment, meaning the eventual sign-up number could be higher than the figure touted by the White House on Tuesday.

Washington state’s exchange is letting some people — those exposed to the law’s tax penalty for lacking insurance — to sign up until April 17.

The distinction between state-run exchanges and the federal marketplace will be on full display next month, when the Supreme Court hears arguments in a case that could poke a huge hole in Mr. Obama’s signature law.

Challengers in the case known as King v. Burwell say the Affordable Care Act of 2010 reserved the law’s subsidies for customers in exchanges “established by the state,” although the administration says customers in every state are eligible for financial assistance.

The administration says 87 percent of customers on the federal exchange qualified for the subsidies, which averaged $268 per month, per person, during the 2015 enrollment season.

Without the subsidies, many customers would drop coverage, sending the law’s fragile economics into a tailspin.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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