More than 6 million Americans have signed up for private coverage on the nation’s health insurance marketplaces, surpassing the Congressional Budget Office estimate for first-year enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.
President Barack Obama announced the coverage milestone during a conference call from Rome, where he met Thursday with Pope Francis, with thousands of health care “navigators” and volunteers whose nationwide grassroots efforts helped inform people about the new marketplaces and the controversial health law that led to their creation.
The enrollment totals are a hard-earned victory for the president, the Department of Health and Human Services and supporters of his signature legislative accomplishment. The CBO originally expected 7 million people to sign up for coverage, but it downsized its estimate after technical problems marred the debut of the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states.
The administration also had to overcome a lack of federal funding to publicize the signup effort and fierce political opposition from congressional and state Republicans.
During the conference call, Obama thanked the group for its efforts and urged the participants to continue for the last four days of the open enrollment period, which technically ends March 31 but as of this week has been extended for those who need more time to sign up for coverage.
On Wednesday, HealthCare.gov hosted more than 1.5 million visits, while Health and Human Services phone centers took more than 430,000 calls from people inquiring about coverage.
The health care law requires most Americans to have health coverage in 2014 or pay a fine for noncompliance when they file their taxes in 2015.