Five million people have now signed up for health insurance on the state and federal online exchanges, the Obama administration said Monday — a number that suggests a big-last minute surge to get coverage.
The new figures suggest a final push by the White House to get people to enroll is working. The deadline to get signed up for 2014 is March 31, just two weeks away. As of March 1, the Health and Human Services Department said 4.2 million people had signed up.
“Fernando Valdez and Denise Schroeder were part of a weekend wave of consumers signing up for new coverage and bringing enrollment nationwide to more than 5 million through the federal and state-based marketplaces since October 1st,” Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in a blog post.
“Fernando Valdez, 25, of El Paso, Texas woke up early on Saturday, after his mother insisted that he walk to an enrollment center and enroll in Marketplace coverage. Now, he will pay $22 a month for his health insurance,” Tavenner wrote. That’s because he’ll qualify for a hefty federal subsidy to pay his premium.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images file
Angel Rivera, left, and his wife, Wilma Rivera, sit with Amada Cantera, an insurance agent with Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as they try to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at the kiosk setup at the Mall of America on Dec. 22, 2013, in Miami.
“Denise, a small business owner in West Chester, Pennsylvania who runs ‘Happy Heart Clown N'Stuff’ which does balloon decorating and entertainment for parties is also a cancer survivor,” Tavenner adds. Schroeder was paying $880 a month in premiums, but qualified for a subsidized plan and will pay $22 a month, Tavenner said. “When she saw the new premium, she cried,” Tavenner wrote.
HHS, the White House and allies are trying every approach they can to encourage people to sign up for health insurance on the new exchanges after a technical disaster kept millions from signing up for the first two months after they opened. They’ve invoked moms and brought in celebrities; they’ve subjected President Barack Obama to online comedy shows and this month they’re playing off “March Madness” college basketball playoffs.
The goal is not only to sign up at least 6 million people, but to get the right mix of young and healthy enrollees versus older and sicker people, so premiums don’t have to spike next year.
First published March 17 2014, 2:33 PM
Maggie Fox is senior health writer for NBCNews.com and TODAY.com, writing top news on health policy, medical treatments and disease.
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She's a former managing editor for healthcare and technology at National Journal and global health and science editor for Reuters based in Washington, D.C. and London.
She's reported for news agencies, radio, newspapers, magazines and television from across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe covering news ranging from war to politics and, of course, health and science. Her reporting has taken Maggie to Lebanon, Syria and Libya; to China, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan; to Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia and to Ireland and Northern Ireland and across the rest of Europe.
Maggie has won awards from the Society of Business Editors and Writers, the National Immunization Program, the Overseas Press Club and other organizations. She's done fellowships at Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland.