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Obama Says 11.4 Million Signed Up During Health Law Enrollment

By Rebecca Adams, CQ Roll Call

February 18, 2015 -- About 11.4 million people signed up for insurance through the marketplaces created under the health care law during the just-completed open enrollment period, according to a video that the White House released last week featuring President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

Some of the individuals still have to pay their first premium before coverage can kick in. The deadline to signup was Feb. 15, although HHS officials gave people who had not finished an application an extra week to complete their enrollment. The sign-up figure includes people who were automatically re-enrolled because they had not returned to the website to choose another plan.

More than 1 million people chose plans in the last nine days of the enrollment period, said HHS officials.

The health care law is "working a little bit better than we anticipated, certainly I think working a lot better than many of the critics talked about early on," Obama said in the video.

One question remaining is whether the administration will give people another chance to sign up if they discover they owe a penalty for not having coverage in 2014 when they pay their taxes. The health care law requires uninsured individuals to pay a penalty that rises over time, although the administration also has created a long list of exemptions. The penalty for forgoing coverage in 2014 is $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is more. For 2015, the penalty climbs to $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is more.

The Congressional Budget Office had estimated that 12 million people would get their coverage through health law marketplace plans in 2015.

Obama said in the video that interest in marketplace coverage "gives you some sense of how hungry people were out there for affordable, accessible health insurance."

The announcement comes two weeks before Supreme Court on March 4 will hear arguments in a case challenging the system for awarding subsidies to people buying insurance. At issue is whether Congress intended subsidies to only be available in states than run their own marketplaces or also in those that rely on the federal government to run them. 

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