Health-Law Sign-Ups Top Six Million, White House Says

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Enrollment in Exchanges Surpasses Revised CBO Estimate.

The White House said the Affordable Care Act crossed a key threshold as it announced Thursday that more than six million people have signed up for private health coverage through state and federal insurance exchanges.

The number, released days before the Monday deadline for most people to enroll for this year, surpasses the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s revised estimate that six million people would enroll in private health plans for 2014—down from its initial forecast of seven million.

But left unclear was how many of those signing up had been uninsured—a key aim of the law—and whether they include many of the young and mostly healthy Americans needed to keep costs in check, and whether those signing up have actually paid premiums to bring the insurance coverage into effect.

Supporters of the law called the enrollment total a milestone that shows the Affordable Care Act had turned the corner after its disastrous rollout.

Opponents of the law said the figure had little meaning given the lack of detail so far on the makeup of the enrollees. “I think those numbers are a fantasy,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, (R., Texas). “How many of these people previously had insurance?

The administration has referred questions about how many people have paid their first month’s premiums, the final step in enrolling, to insurers, who generally have declined to give firm numbers. Federal officials also have said they don’t know how many had gained coverage after being previously uninsured, though they have pointed to other surveys that suggest a majority were previously insured.

Firm numbers also aren’t yet available for how many additional people have enrolled in Medicaid as a result of the expansion of eligibility for the program in 25 states, though supporters of the law have said they are in the millions.

Vincent Garcia, age 24, chose a SelectHealth plan earlier this week that would cost him $24 a month, after federal subsidies. Mr. Garcia, a Salt Lake City urinalysis technician, hasn’t had insurance in four years.

Up until a week and a half ago, he was aware of the law from radio and newspaper stories, but not particularly interested. But then he picked up a bad cough last week and decided to apply for coverage through a local broker, Insurance 2.0.

“I would have avoided it but for the fact that there are penalties for not having insurance, and I came to the conscious awareness that I should get insurance,” he said.

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