O-Care won't meet enrollment target, analysis predicts

A new analysis is predicting that 5.4 million people will sign up for ObamaCare coverage by the end of March, falling short of government projections.

Consulting firm Avalere Health based its conclusion on the first open enrollment period in Medicare Part D, when 22 percent of voluntary sign-ups took place in the last month.

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Obama administration officials announced this week that 4.2 million people had signed up for private plans as of February 28.

Avalere predicted that 1.2 million will sign up this month, bringing the total to 5.4 million enrollees for 2014.

The figure would fail to meet projections by the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that 6 million people would enroll in coverage by the end of March.

The administration had also named 7 million sign-ups as its goal, but backed away when that outcome appeared unlikely.

Healthcare experts have downplayed the importance of the number of enrollees compared with their age and health status.

"The administration is conducting aggressive outreach in March in an effort to boost enrollment," said Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, in a statement.

"However, success of exchanges in 2014 will depend less on the size of the market and more on the risk profile of enrollees."

Still, ObamaCare supporters are hoping that a strong surge of interest over the next three weeks will make up for the lag in sign-ups last fall as problems plagued HealthCare.gov.

The White House is doing its part to encourage this with media appearances deigned to boost traffic to the site.

Visits to HealthCare.gov rose almost 40 percent on Tuesday after President Obama appeared in "Between Two Ferns," a comedy web series hosted by actor Zach Galifianakis, according to the White House.

The same has not been true for some state-based exchanges, however, where the pace of sign-ups remains highly variable.

Avalere noted that systems in Hawaii, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia are struggling to meet enrollment projections.