The number of people seeking health insurance under Obamacare more than doubled in November to around 250,000, according to a government report on Wednesday, showing the landmark healthcare law is still far from its goal of extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
The new tally brought the cumulative total for October and November to 365,000 people who have selected health plans in new online marketplaces set up in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Just over 800,000 have been determined eligible for government health coverage including the Medicaid program for the poor.
The data reflects continued technical problems in November with the federal enrollment website, HealthCare.gov, which crashed on its Oct. 1 launch and was subjected to weeks of emergency fixes. The site has appeared to work far more smoothly since the beginning of this month.
A senior administration official said the weak start to the six-month enrollment period has not diminished expectations that President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy will reach a significant proportion of the uninsured in 2014. Before the launch, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had forecast 7 million enrollees for next year.
"We think we're on track and we'll reach the total that we thought," said Mike Hash, health reform director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"We're not exclusively focused on reaching a particular number," he added. "What we're focused on is reaching the millions of people who are really looking for affordable healthcare coverage."
Officials described the figures as "encouraging" news for Obamacare after months of negative publicity over HealthCare.gov and an uproar over coverage cancellations for people whose health plans do not meet the law's new standards that take full effect in January.
The latest report showed more than 44 million visits to federal and state websites or call centers since Oct. 1. It showed 1.9 million people have been determined eligible for coverage but have not yet selected a plan.
The number of people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov quadrupled to more than 100,000 in November from only 27,000 in October, as the administration scrambled to make the site work smoothly for most visitors by a Nov. 30 deadline.
Analysts say December's enrollment numbers will be more telling about whether the sign-up effort will live up to expectations, including a push to enroll some 2.7 million young, healthy adults whose premium payments will help offset the cost of sicker individuals. The