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Administration Officials Say Marketplace Enrollment Tops 3 Million

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

January 24, 2014 -- The number of people who enrolled in state and federal marketplace plans has reached about 3 million, according to an announcement last week by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

Obama administration officials touted the development as a milestone that was reached this week. CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said that he did not know exactly what day enrollments reached that number.

"As our outreach efforts kick into even higher gear, we anticipate these numbers will continue to grow, particularly as we reach even more uninsured young adults so that they know that new options and new ways to help eligible individuals pay for their premium are now available, thanks to the Affordable Care Act," said Tavenner in a blog post.

The administration and its supporters are busy courting young people through a national publicity campaign that includes a day of focused outreach on February 15.

The administration set aside $76 million for paid ads during the open-enrollment season, including $52 million from Jan. 1 to March 31, said Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

Administration officials said they did not have more details on enrollment, such as a demographic or state-by-state breakdown of the enrollment figures. The most recent report with that kind of information was released on Jan. 13.

That report showed that 2.2 million selected a plan between Oct. 1 and Dec. 28. Obama administration officials did not release an exact number of people who have signed up and selected a plan so far. The administration counts enrollments by the number of people who have selected a plan, but does not subtract people who have not yet paid a premium.

At least 125,000 of the sign-ups between the end of the year and mid-January appear to come from California, which released its own estimates earlier this week.

The administration's announcement that roughly 800,000 people signed up in the last few days of December and first three weeks of January suggests a slowdown from December, a month in which 1.8 million people signed up. The heavy December turnout included people trying to ensure they had coverage on Jan. 1. In some cases they were facing the prospect of losing coverage because their insurance policies were ending and they were seeking to avoid going without benefits.

Before the troubled launch of the coverage expansion, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 7 million people would sign up by the end of open enrollment on March 31. Since then, a number of health policy experts have predicted that the administration would fall short of that figure.

However, administration officials have said that they expect a surge of sign-ups close to the end of March as the deadline nears. After that, people who want insurance through the new marketplaces will have to wait until the next open-enrollment period for another chance to enroll unless their personal situations change through events including the loss of coverage, a move to another state, marriage or divorce. The administration has proposed that the following open enrollment start on Nov. 15, 2014.

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