In a dramatic turnaround from a problematic start six months ago, more than 7 million people nationwide have signed up for coverage in public health insurance exchanges, meeting the original enrollment expectations of federal officials.
The enrollment count of 7.1 million is based on those who enrolled in exchanges run by the Department of Health and Human Services in 36 states by the midnight Monday deadline, as well as enrollment in the state-run exchanges as of March 30.
Basking in the enrollment numbers, President Barack Obama said Tuesday afternoon, while the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not perfect, the law “is doing what it is supposed to do. It is helping people.”
The health care reform law, President Obama said, is “helping millions of Americans, and it will help millions more in the coming years.''
And in a jab at congressional Republicans who have launched numerous and so far unsuccessful efforts to repeal the health care reform law he signed in 2010, President Obama said: “The law is here to stay.”
The enrollment figures released Tuesday show how rapidly exchange enrollment has grown in the last month. For example, as recently as March 1, exchange enrollment stood at just 4.2 million.
And enrollment figures are a dramatic contrast to the meager numbers following the launch of the exchanges on Oct. 1, 2013 and in the following months when the exchanges were plagued by glitches that made enrollment difficult if not impossible for many.
As of Nov. 2, 2013, for example, only a little more than 100,000 people had enrolled. But enrollment began to surge in the following weeks and months as website crashes and other problems sharply declined.
Still, the exact impact of how much the exchanges — where more than 80% of enrollees have received federal premium subsidies — have reduced the number of uninsured is not yet known.
That is because the Obama administration has not disclosed how many of the 7 million enrolled were previously uninsured. A group of congressional Republicans now is trying to obtain that information from insurers writing coverage in the exchanges.
In 2012, about 48 million Americans were uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.