More than a million signed up for health insurance, Obama says

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By Maggie Fox

More than a million people have now managed to sign up for health insurance on the state and federal websites — more than 500,000 on the federal website so far this month alone, President Barack Obama said Friday.

The president let slip the numbers that the Health and Human Services Department has been carefully guarding, numbers that suggest it’s far easier to use the website than it was during the first two disastrous months it was live.

“More than half a million Americans have signed up in first three weeks of December,” Obama told a news conference Friday. “In the federal website tens of thousands are enrolling every day.” He said more than a million have chosen their health insurance plans, although that might not mean a million people have paid their premiums — an important step for full enrollment.

“All told, millions of Americans, despite problems with the website, are now poised to become covered with quality, affordable health insurance by New Year’s Day.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the websites, said that just 365,000 people got signed up in all of October and November.

Obama has admitted several times it was because the federal website was a mess. “Obviously, we screwed it up,” he said Friday.

The basic structure of that law is working, despite all the problems, despite the fact that the first month and a half was lost due to the problems with the website,” he added. Yet you have two million people who signed up. What that means is that the demand is there and the product is good.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had projected 7 million people would sign up for private insurance in the first year the exchanges were running, and about 9 million for Medicaid. The CBO has not adjusted those projections since the wobbly rollout of the federal and state exchanges.

Not all of the states have had trouble. California says 53,000 people signed up there in just three days this week and some of the more successful exchanges say they’ve had a steady stream of customers. Other states, such as Hawaii, Oregon and Maryland, have had problems as bad as, if not worse than, the federal site.

CMS has been releasing numbers on enrollments mid-month, so expect the official enrollment numbers that will include the December totals in mid-January.

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