President Obama on Tuesday said enrollment in coverage through the health insurance exchanges has reached four million, up from 3.3 million at the end of January, the Associated Press reports.
During an event hosted by Organizing for Action, Obama urged 300 enrollment advocates to continue to push U.S. residents to sign up for coverage in the waning weeks of the open enrollment period. If people "want health insurance now, they need to sign up now," he said, adding that the administration would make a "big push" to try to increase enrollment before March 31.
Obama also highlighted the millions of U.S. residents who have benefitted from the law, either through Medicaid expansion or a provision allowing individuals to stay on their parents' health plans until age 26.
Tavenner touts enrollment
Meanwhile, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner touted the enrollment figures in an HHS blog post that went up on Tuesday.
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"Our outreach efforts are in full force with community partners and local officials participating in hundreds of events each week and enrollment assisters are helping more and more people enroll in coverage," Tavenner wrote, adding, "Consumers are shopping and enrolling in plans on HealthCare.gov every day; system error rates are low and response times are consistently less than half a second."
She noted that health officials are seeing a "strong demand nationwide" for coverage and that a federal call center has received more than 12 million calls since the fall. More detailed enrollment data will not be released until mid-March, she added.
Premium payments data release date unknown
In related news, a CMS official announced that detailed enrollment data separating those who enrolled in health plans from those who actually paid their initial premiums would not be available until an unspecified date, CQ HealthBeat reports.
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The official said that CMS has "prioritized reporting the information that provides the most accurate snapshot of [exchange] enrollment-related activity available." The official continued, "Once our automated payment systems are completed and fully tested, CMS will determine the most appropriate way to report how many people have paid their premiums."
The official did not specify when the systems would be complete, but said the agency was working "24/7 to get this system ready."
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Sebelius questions 7M target, criticizes GOP over Medicaid expansion
Also on Tuesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during an interview with HuffPostLive tried to diminish the significance of an earlier estimate that seven million U.S. residents would enroll in coverage through the exchanges by the end of the open enrollment period.
During the interview, moderator Marc Lamont Hill asked Sebelius three times whether enrollment would reach seven million. After deflecting the question twice, she said, "First of all, seven million was not the administration. That was a CBO, Congressional Budget Office, prediction when the bill was first signed." She added, "[T]he vice president has looked and said it may be closer to five to six [million]."
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According to The Hill's "Healthwatch," the administration initially embraced CBO's estimate.
Also during the interview, Sebelius criticized Republican governors in several states for not expanding Medicaid under the ACA, calling the decisions "an outrage." She noted that the states are among those with the "highest level of uninsured African-Americans."
She urged residents in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas to "put pressure on governors and legislatures to say, this is not acceptable" (Easley , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/25; Easley , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/25; Howell, Washington Times, 2/25; Levine, Politico, 2/25; Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 2/25 [subscription required]; Superville/Thomas, AP/ABC News, 2/26;
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