(Adds State of the Union reference in paragraph 4 and reference
to retroactive enrollment in paragraph 8)
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON Jan 24 The number of people enrolled
in private health insurance under Obamacare has soared by more
than one-third in recent weeks to around 3 million, according to
government data released on Friday.
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), announced the preliminary
tally in a blog posting. She forecast that enrollment through
new federal and state health insurance marketplaces would
continue to grow in coming weeks as a public outreach campaign
The new data adds to evidence that President Barack Obama's
administration has turned the corner on enrollment after a
botched Oct. 1 launch. It also shows that officials might still
reach their initial goal of signing up 7 million people for
private coverage by the time enrollment ends on March 31.
Analysts say Obama could highlight the 3 million number as a
sign of progress when he addresses the topic of healthcare
reform in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday.
The administration did not say how many of the new enrollees
are young adults needed to ensure the success of Obamacare.
Officials are relying on significant participation among healthy
young adults to help offset costs from older enrollees and
prevent insurers from raising their rates.
The latest tally is close to the 3.3 million mark that the
administration originally expected by Jan. 1 and reflects a
January gain of about 800,000 enrollees, or 36 percent, from the
2.2 million total reported earlier this month for the Oct. 1
through Dec. 28 period.
"We can now safely say that the exchanges will be stable,"
said Topher Spiro of the Center for American Progress, a
left-leaning think tank aligned with the Obama administration.
The figure was likely to include consumers who sought
retroactive January coverage after Dec. 31. At the urging of the
Obama administration, some plans have allowed consumers to sign
up late for coverage beginning Jan. 1. Maryland's state-run
marketplace said on Friday that about 1,400 households have
opted for retroactive enrollment through its marketplace.
Earlier this week, the administration also announced that
the number of people eligible for Medicaid and the Children's
Health Insurance Program (CHIP) rose to 6.3 million this month
as a result of the enrollment effort. Medicaid and CHIP both
benefit poor people and their expansion represents an integral
part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"With millions transitioning to new coverage already, we
continue to see strong interest nationwide from consumers who
want access to quality, affordable coverage," Tavenner said in a
blog posted on a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) Web page.
"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."
Tavenner's CMS is the HHS agency responsible for
implementing most of the healthcare reform law.
Administration officials have expressed growing confidence
in the ultimate success of Obama's signature domestic policy
since late last year, when an emergency effort to fix crippling
glitches at the federal website, HealthCare.gov, finally allowed
millions of people to visit the site and enroll for coverage
"We made a comeback in December and we're hitting our
stride," Dr. Mandy Cohen, a senior adviser to Tavenner, said
this week at a conference hosted by the group Families USA,
which advocates for healthcare reform.
Much of the success has come from the 15 marketplaces run by
states and the District of Columbia. California has reported
more than 625,000 private health insurance enrollment since Oct.
1, and New York has announced a daily enrollment pace of 7,000
people for private insurance and Medicaid in January.
But administration officials acknowledge they still have a
long way to go.
The Obamacare marketplaces, which have been set up in all 50
states, offer private health insurance with subsidies to help
pay premiums and other expenses for people with lower incomes.
But so far, three-quarters of enrollees have been older and
sicker policyholders, whose greater need for health services
means higher costs for insurers. The administration has said it
wants 38 percent of the market to consist of younger adults,
aged 18 to 34, whose lower healthcare costs would help keep
overall costs in line.
After tackling HealthCare.gov's problems last year, the
administration also needs to complete construction of the
federal health insurance marketplace that serves 36 states. Many
automated functions have yet to be built, including the software
application for distributing federal subsidies owed to insurers
for covering lower-income consumers.
(Editing by Karey Van Hall, Andre Grenon and Amanda Kwan)