- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Roughly 17.6 million Americans are now insured because of Obamacare, the administration said Tuesday in a preview of the upcoming enrollment period that toggled between celebrating success and admitting the challenges that lie ahead in rooting out the remaining uninsured.

The figure released by the Health and Human Services Department is an increase from the 16.4 million tally that congressional Democrats and Obamacare supporters have touted since March.

“Five years in, millions of people have new coverage and the percentage of the uninsured has been reduced to the lowest level on record. We now have a new opportunity before us to build on this progress,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in remarks to the Howard University College of Medicine.

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The Affordable Care Act has extended coverage in three key ways — allowing customers to shop for private plans on Web-based health exchanges, often with the help of government subsidies; an expansion of Medicaid in 29 states, plus D.C.; and by allowing young adults to stay on their parents plans until age 26.

From October 2013 to Sept. 12 of this year, 4 million Latinos got covered for a 11.5-percent drop in the group’s uninsured rate, according to HHS.

About 2.6 million black Americans gained coverage for a 10.3-percent drop in their uninsured rate, and 7.4 millions whites got covered, a 6 percent drop.

While trumpeting progress, key hurdles remain for the administration and its signature law. Opponents say the law is hiking premiums and that out-of-pocket costs are leaving people “functionally uninsured.”

As the exchanges set to open for a third open enrollment season, the law’s supporters will have to work harder than ever to find uninsured people who haven’t already taken advantage of the law’s benefits.

“While those remaining uninsured may be harder to reach, we’re working smarter to reach them,” Mrs. Burwell said. “We know Americans are depending on us, and we’re doing everything we can to help them find the coverage they need.”

About 10.5 million uninsured Americans will be eligible for exchange coverage during the upcoming open enrollment season, Mrs. Burwell said.

HHS is targeting five key areas — Dallas, Houston, northern New Jersey, Chicago and Miami — because they contain the largest concentrations of those eligible for coverage.

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