ObamaCare enrollment hits 3 million

About 3 million people have selected a healthcare plan under ObamaCare, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced at an event in Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday.

HHS confirmed to The Hill that about 800,000 people have enrolled so far in January, on top of the 2.2 million who selected plans from October through December.

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If that pace continues, January will surpass December as the month with the most enrollments. A strong push by the administration and the first open enrollment deadline at the end of the year resulted in more than 1 million enrollees for December.

That’s encouraging news for the Obama administration, as some experts had predicted a fall-off in enrollments for January. A flood of last-minute consumers is expected for March, when open enrollment ends for 2014, and the penalty associated with the individual mandate kicks in.

If March enrollments reach a new high, and there isn’t a significant fall-off in February, the administration might even approach the Congressional Budget Office estimate of having 7 million enrollees for 2014.

The administration’s goal had been to have 3 million by the end of the 2013, and 7 million by the end of March, but technical issues at HealthCare.gov have tempered those expectations.

Still, questions remain.

The administration has not said how many of the 3 million have actually finalized their enrollments by making their first premium payments.

In addition, the demographic breakdown through December skewed older, and the healthcare law needs healthy consumers, who are typically younger, to keep premiums from rising. Experts say the overall number of enrollees isn’t nearly as important as the health and demographic breakdown of who is participating.

However, few people predicted January would be a banner month for enrollments, so Friday’s announcement indicates there is active demand for coverage, and the administration’s and insurers' bid to get the word out about the law is gaining momentum.

“As our outreach efforts kick into even higher gear, we anticipate these numbers will continue to grow, particularly as we reach even more uninsured young adults so that they know that new options and new ways to help eligible individuals pay for their premium are now available, thanks to the Affordable Care Act,” the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement.

HHS will run ObamaCare ads during the Winter Olympics, targeting the young and healthy in parts of the country where there are large numbers of uninsured people.

HHS and the insurance industry had planned public relations campaigns for the beginning of open enrollment in October but delayed them because of the malfunctioning federal website.