Over 1.1 million Americans enrolled in private health plans through Healthcare.gov between October 1 and Christmas Eve, the Obama administration announced on Sunday. That includes 975,000 enrollments in December alone as the beleaguered Obamacare website was relaunched at the beginning of the month and Americans faced a December 23 deadline to sign up for plans that take effect on New Year’s Day.
“As we continue our open enrollment campaign, we experienced a welcome surge in enrollment as millions of Americans seek access to affordable health care coverage through new Health Insurance Marketplaces nationwide,” wrote Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in a Sunday morning blog post.
Technical woes stymied enrollment in the federal marketplace for the first two months of the open enrollment season, which will conclude at the end of March. Just 27,000 people enrolled in a federal plan in October and 137,000 through November. Sign ups increased steadily as the site’s glitches were fixed and a surge of traffic on the December 23 deadline, when nearly two million people visited the site, propelled federal enrollments past the 1.1 million mark.
The new figures don’t include enrollments through the 14 state-based Obamacare marketplaces or the number of low-income Americans who have gained Medicaid coverage under the law’s optional expansion of the public insurance program. Some states — including California, New York, and Washington — have reported enrollment spikes similar to the federal marketplace in the last month.
California’s marketplace estimated that 27,000 residents picked plans on December 23 alone; another 20,000 reportedly signed up on the same day in New York and 10,000 in Washington. Several other states, such as Oregon and Maryland, have had less than stellar experiences as they struggle to fix glitches in their own marketplaces. About 237,000 people enrolled in the state-wide marketplaces through the end of November, according to the most recent data.
Enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has also been surging in states that expanded Medicaid — and even in some that didn’t. In fact, just under four million low-income Americans have gained public health insurance since the beginning of the enrollment season in October.
Most Americans who signed up for new plans taking effect on January 1 will have until January 10 to pay their first month’s premium. The Obama administration has also urged insurance companies to accept out-of-network providers as if they are in-network and honor existing prescription drug refills for Americans whose old insurance policies may have been discontinued under the health law in January as they transition into their new plans.