Only 106,000 Pick Health Insurance Plans in First Month

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from The New York Times,

Just over 106,000 people picked health plans in the first month of open enrollment through the state and federal insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health secretary said Wednesday, a fraction of the administration’s initial estimate for enrollment during that period.

Only about a fourth of the new enrollees — 26,794 — signed up through, the problem-plagued federal exchange, according to figures released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A much larger number, 76,319, signed up through the 14 state-run marketplaces.

The long-awaited figures, released by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, became instant fodder for the political battle over Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. As nervous Democrats on Capitol Hill threatened to introduce legislation altering the law, Republicans called the new numbers dismal and embarrassing, citing them as further proof that the program was a “train wreck.”

The White House has spent weeks trying to lower expectations about the numbers — even as questions emerged about the way it counts who is enrolled. On Wednesday, Ms. Sebelius and congressional Democrats were upbeat, saying people were clearly shopping for coverage.

“The marketplace is working,” Ms. Sebelius said. “People are enrolling.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has predicted seven million people will enroll by the time the initial six-month sign-up window closes, and administration officials insist they can meet that goal. But the numbers released Wednesday fall far short of the administration’s early projections, contained in an internal memo in September, which said 464,920 would sign up in the first month.

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