December 30, 2013

Health insurance sign-ups nearing 2 million

Yet to be reported are December results from the 14 states that run their own websites for enrollees.

By Josh Lederman And Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Lisa Donlea, left, and Susan Roberts, a certified enrollment officer, celebrate after working on Donlea’s federal health insurance exchange enrollment online for one hour and 47 minutes in Laguna Beach, Calif., last week. Enrollment surged in December.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

A file image shows part of the HealthCare.gov website in Washington. A December surge propelled health care sign-ups through the government’s rehabilitated website past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration said Sunday.

The Associated Press

"The fact that people well into the middle class are going to get subsidies is going to cause them to look at healthcare...sort of in a Third World way of do we get subsidies from the government for our milk, for our gasoline and, oh, by the way, for our healthcare," said Issa.

For consumers who successfully selected one of the new insurance plans by Dec. 24, coverage should start on New Year's Day. That's provided they pay their first month's premium by the due date, extended until Jan. 10 in most cases.

But insurers have complained that another set of technical problems, largely hidden from consumers, has resulted in the government passing along inaccurate data on enrollees. With a flood of signups that must be processed in just days, it remains unclear whether last-minute enrollees will encounter a seamless experience if they try to use their new benefits come Jan. 1.

The White House says the error rate has been significantly reduced, but the political fallout from website woes could pale in comparison with the heat that Obama might take if Americans who signed up and paid their premiums arrive at the pharmacy or the emergency room and find there's no record of their coverage.

Officials are also working to prevent gaps in coverage for at least 4.7 million Americans whose individual policies were canceled this fall because they fell short of the law's requirements. The administration has said that even if those individuals don't sign up for new plans, they can seek a waiver that would spare them from the law's tax penalty for remaining uninsured.

A few states offering their own updates have posted encouraging totals, including New York, where more than 200,000 have enrolled either through the state exchange or through Medicaid, a government program expanded under Obama's health law to cover more people. In California, a tally released Friday showed nearly 430,000 have enrolled through the exchange so far.

Castro and Issa spoke on NBC's "Meet The Press."

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