More Than 2 Million Signed Up For Jan. 1 Obamacare

How many paid premiums and will begin to experience coverage is unclear.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the troubled launch of the Healthcare.gov website October 30, 2013.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
Dec. 31, 2013, 11:19 a.m.

As many as 2.1 mil­lion people will start their ex­per­i­ence with Obama­care to­mor­row.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us said on a press call Tues­day that as of Dec. 28, 2.1 mil­lion people had en­rolled in a private in­sur­ance plan through the Af­ford­able Care Act health in­sur­ance ex­changes. Roughly half en­rolled through the fed­er­al mar­ket­place.

Se­beli­us ad­ded that 3.9 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans were de­term­ined eli­gible for Medi­caid and the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber.

“We’re work­ing to en­sure any Amer­ic­an who wants to en­roll in cov­er­age between now and March 31 is able to do so,” Se­beli­us said.

The num­bers fall far short of the ini­tial goal to hit 7 mil­lion en­rollees by March 31, but Decem­ber saw a steady spike in en­roll­ment after Health­Care.gov was fixed. With open en­roll­ment halfway over, Se­beli­us said they’re en­cour­aged by the totals.

The num­ber of people who have ac­tu­ally paid premi­ums and will be able to use their cov­er­age start­ing Jan. 1 is un­clear. HHS of­fi­cials also de­clined to of­fer spe­cif­ics about the en­rolled pop­u­la­tion — such as ra­cial, eth­nic, and age demo­graph­ics — as well as the num­ber who will be­ne­fit from the premi­um tax sub­sidies de­signed to make in­sur­ance more af­ford­able for low-in­come con­sumers.

HHS of­fi­cials also said they did not know how many of the en­rollees were pre­vi­ously un­in­sured and how many were trans­fer­ring from pre­vi­ously can­celed cov­er­age. They fielded 2,400 calls to the spe­cial hot line for con­sumers with can­celed policies.

And while there are no new is­sues with the con­sumer “834” data forms that are sent from the ex­change to the in­sur­ance com­pan­ies, Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices spokes­wo­man Ju­lie Ba­taille said the pro­cess to rem­edy faulty trans­mis­sions is on­go­ing.

Con­sumers who signed up for in­sur­ance through the ex­changes should call their in­sur­ance com­pany to veri­fy that their premi­um pay­ment has been re­ceived and that they are of­fi­cially en­rolled in cov­er­age.

Once en­rolled, con­sumers will have an in­sur­ance card to present when re­ceiv­ing ser­vices. Those who need ser­vices be­fore they re­ceive their card should ask their in­sur­ance com­pany about oth­er proofs of pur­chase. In the short term, CVS and Wal­greens will ac­cept oth­er ways of con­firm­ing cov­er­age if in­di­vidu­als have not yet re­ceived their cards, Se­beli­us said.

HHS of­fi­cials ad­ded that con­sumers should veri­fy with their in­sur­ance com­pany which health ser­vices are covered by their com­pany be­fore seek­ing treat­ment. Some 10,000 cus­tom­er-ser­vice trained rep­res­ent­at­ives will be on hand at the call cen­ters on New Year’s Day for con­sumers with fur­ther ques­tions.

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