Obamacare enrollment tops 1 million

After a ridiculously bumpy start, the Obamacare website is seeing a marked increase in sign-ups

Published December 11, 2013 3:25PM (EST)

There's still a long way to go before the first-year goal of 7 million private health insurance sign-ups and 9 million Medicaid enrollments is reached, but there are increasingly encouraging signs that Obamacare enrollment is picking up steam.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, from October 1 to November 30, the federally run exchanges in 30-plus states have accounted for roughly 137,000 private coverage enrollments, while the state-run exchanges have added another 227,000 to the tally. Overall, 365,000 people have enrolled into private health insurance plans, while 803,000 were considered eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

"We have every reason to believe that interest will continue to grow and enrollment numbers will continue to rise," the director of the Office of Health Reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Hash, said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. "We think we're on track and we will reach the total that we thought."

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Beneath the signs of improvement, however, are troublesome issues that continue to jeopardize the enrollment process and individuals' health coverage for next month. Although HealthCare.gov appears to be more reliable, some users still report error messages, garbled applications and other problems, such as getting their identities verified. And Cover Oregon and the Maryland Health Connection are among a handful of state-run exchanges with significant technical problems.

About one-fourth of enrollments in private insurance through the federal exchanges in October and November, and about one-tenth so far this month, were flawed, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services disclosed last week. Health insurance companies are receiving incomplete, inaccurate or nonexistent data about their new customers from the federal system, and some states are experiencing similar difficulties. Likewise, the federal exchanges are providing states with information about Medicaid enrollees that may not be correct.

Together, these problems threaten to leave some consumers in the lurch next month when they try to use their new benefits, only to find they aren't actually covered. Matters are more urgent for consumers whose current policies can't be renewed, and for those with pre-existing conditions covered by government programs that are expiring at year's end.


By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Healthcare.gov Michael Hash Obamacare The Huffington Post