Remember, the White House expected that about 7 million Americans would purchase private coverage through the exchanges by March 2014. And based on the AP data, it seems that their "modest goal" was that 7% of those customers would sign up in October, across all the states.
But also keep in mind: Enrollment takes time. Many people won't end up applying for coverage until deadlines hit and the mandate penalty is looming. (In this case, December 15 and February 15 are the key dates to watch, as NPR's Julie Rovner notes.) That's why officials are expecting a last-minute flurry of interest, given that there's no incentive pushing the uninsured to sign up for coverage now.
That's what happened when Massachusetts instituted its own health reforms in 2006 and 2007, according to John McDonough, a Harvard professor who helped oversee Massachusetts' reforms and write the Affordable Care Act. The most significant single-month jump in enrollment that first year was December 2007—when the mandate penalty took effect.
"Bottom line—expectations of large-scale, instantaneous enrollment in the ACA are unrealistic and uninformed," McDonough concludes.
How do health insurance exchanges work?
Government officials often compare the exchanges to online travel sites like Expedia or Orbitz. But given that many exchange websites aren't fully functional yet, I find it helpful to picture a big box store.