News

Obamacare enrollment tops 6M; deadline looms

Obamacare enrollment tops 6M; deadline looms

OBAMACARE:The last-minute boost has exceeded the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's estimate that 6 million people would sign up in the program's first year, down from earlier expectations of 7 million enrollees because of problems with websites used for shopping for insurance. Photo: Associated Press

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Thursday that more than 6 million people have now signed up for private insurance plans under President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law known as Obamacare, reflecting a surge in enrollments days before the March 31 deadline.

Ten days ago, the administration had pegged enrollment at more than 5 million people, and enlisted celebrities and top government officials to try to convince more uninsured people – particularly the young and healthy – to sign up.

The last-minute boost has exceeded the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 6 million people would sign up in the program’s first year, down from earlier expectations of 7 million enrollees because of problems with websites used for shopping for insurance.

Obama’s opinion poll ratings have been hit hard by the poor rollout of the program, formally called the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans have criticized the program in the build-up to midterm congressional campaigns in November, when Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is at stake.

Obama, who was traveling in Italy on Thursday, spoke on a conference call with several thousand people who are helping people enroll in the plans, a White House official said.

“The president encouraged the navigators and volunteers to redouble their efforts over the next four days and leave no stone unturned,” the official said.

The administration has been aggressively courting the 18-34-year-old demographic in the waning days of enrollment, a group they have argued would be the last to sign up, but whose participation is vital to keep future insurance costs down.

Younger consumers tend to be healthier and cheaper to ensure, compensating for the higher costs associated with older and sicker enrollees.

Data as of February showed only one-quarter of enrollees were ages 18 to 34, short of the goal of 38 percent that administration officials set out before enrollment began last October. No updates have since been provided.

On Wednesday, there were more than 1.5 million visits to HealthCare.gov, the website used to sign up for insurance in 36 states, and call centers received more than 430,000 calls, the White House said.

Tuesday and Wednesday also saw more than 1 million visits to the website and more than 350,000 calls to call centers, according to posts on Twitter by HealthCare.gov.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress earlier this month that the administration would not extend the March 31 enrollment deadline.

The law requires most Americans to be enrolled in insurance by that date, or pay a penalty.

But this week, the agency overseeing HealthCare.gov said there will be a grace period for people who say they experienced technical difficulties on the website or long wait times at federal call centers.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Recent Headlines

41 mins ago in National, Sports

Broncos defense dominates Panthers to win Super Bowl

Fresh
manningsuperbowl

The Broncos scored early and never trailed as they held the league's highest-scoring offense in check en route to capturing their first Super Bowl title in 17 years.

2 hours ago in Entertainment, Sports

TWITTER REACTS: Super Bowl 50 halftime show

Updated
Coldplay singer Chris Martin sings during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Coldplay has a lot of fans ... but most of them were not on Twitter on Sunday night.

2 hours ago in Entertainment, Sports

Coldplay, guests rock Super Bowl 50 halftime

Updated
Beyoncé, from left, Coldplay singer Chris Martin and Bruno Mars perform during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Bruno Mars brought down the house on Sunday night for an unforgettable Super Bowl halftime show.

2 hours ago in Sports, Trending, Viral Videos

WATCH: Super Bowl 50 commercials

Updated
14-overlay-1

A 30-second commercial spot on Super Sunday can cost up to $5 million. Which Super Sunday ad was your favorite?

3 hours ago in Sports

PHOTOS: Super Bowl 50

Updated
The Denver Broncos players celebrate after the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. The Broncos won 24-10. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The Denver Broncos won their third National Football League championship with a 24-10 upset victory over the top-seeded Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.