Obama reports exchange enrollment surge

President Obama (AP photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) President Obama (AP photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Friday that public exchange sign-ups are surging now that the government's website is working better for consumers.

A total of more than 1 million people have enrolled in plans through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges since Oct. 1, when the exchange open enrollment period began, Obama said at his end-of-the-year press conference.

The number of people who have picked plans is up from 365,000 Nov. 30, Obama said.

"That is a big deal," Obama said of getting coverage for uninsured people. "That's why I ran for this office."

Separately, officials said 3.9 million people have qualified for government health coverage through the PPACA Medicaid expansion provision.

Consumers who want coverage to start Jan. 1 apparently will have at least until Dec. 23 to pick plans and until Jan. 10 to pay for plans, due to a combination of Obama administration moves, decisions by state-based exchange managers, and voluntary decisions by health insurers.

PPACA gives consumers until March 31 to sign up for coverage for 2014. After that date, consumers may have to show they have undergone a major, life-changing event to get access to a special enrollment period, or they may have to apply for conventional short-term health insurance outside the exchange system and wait until the enrollment period for 2015 coverage comes around.

Officials have said they hope 3.3 million people will enroll in plans through the exchange system by Dec. 31 and 7 million by March 31.

The part of the HealthCare.gov federal exchange enrollment site that faces the public is continuing to have problems. The site was down for part of the day Friday, as technicians attempted to fix an error that occurred Thursday night when the site was undergoing routine maintenance, officials said.

Other parts of the system continue to send insurers inaccurate data on some of the individuals enrolled. Insurers call some of those jumbled enrolment files "orphans," and others "ghosts."

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