Sebelius to Testify as U.S. Cites Rise in Health Plan Signups

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from The New York Times,

The number of people selecting health insurance plans in the federal and state marketplaces increased in November at a brisk pace, bringing the total to date to nearly 365,000, or more than triple the number who signed up in October, the Obama administration said on Wednesday.

More than a quarter-million people picked health plans last month, and more than half of them were in state-run exchanges, the administration said.

In the federal exchange, 110,400 people chose health plans last month, four times as many as in October, when the federal website prevented many consumers from seeing details of health plans.

If sign-ups continue at the current rate, more than a million people may have selected plans by Jan. 1, when major provisions of the new law go into effect. The Obama administration was counting on having seven million enrollees by the end of the first enrollment period on March 31.

The new data became available as Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, prepared for another confrontation with Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who called a hearing Wednesday to investigate the rollout of President Obama’s health care law.

At the hearing, Ms. Sebelius said the federal government had made contractual commitments to spend $677 million on information technology for and had paid out $319 million through October.

However, she said that the financial management system for the federal marketplace — needed to pay insurance companies — was “in the process of being put together.” It will be ready by mid-January, she said.

Ms. Sebelius acknowledged that flaws in the federal website had “dampened enthusiasm” for the health care law and had discouraged people from using the site to obtain insurance. But she said, “We are seeing very, very positive trends.”

When people learn about their options under the health care law, she said, they express “enormous enthusiasm and often huge relief.”

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