About 100,000 people signed up for health insurance through the online federal exchange last month, a roughly four-fold increase from October even as a team of U.S. government and contractor programmers was fixing the troubled Affordable Care Act website, said a person familiar with program’s progress.
The preliminary November numbers reflect individuals who successfully selected a plan. The administration expects that most consumers will sign up early next year as the enrollment period nears its March 31 close, said the person who asked for anonymity because the final numbers were still being calculated.
After two months of software errors and delays that have threatened the success of President Barack Obama’s signature health law, the administration said yesterday that it met its self-imposed deadline and the site, healthcare.gov, is working smoothly for the majority of users. The fumbled rollout forced the administration to scale back its original enrollment targets of about 800,000 for the first two months.
While far from the original goal, the jump in enrollment may be an encouraging trend for the administration and could signal that consumers are keeping an open mind about the new $1.4 trillion health law amid criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the site’s technical failures.
The person who provided the November enrollment figures, said the data points to a steady increase in sign-ups even before major website improvements were completed at the end of November.
Only 26,794 people signed up for private plans in the federal marketplace in October, while 79,391 enrolled through 14 states which, along with the District of Columbia, are running their own exchanges and websites. Most have experienced fewer technical problems. The federal website serves 36 states.
Administration officials have said they’ll continue to fix the website over the coming weeks and months. The administration spent the last two months addressing the front-end experience for users who were trying to enroll in plans. The team must now also focus on healthcare.gov’s failure to properly transmit data to insurers on the back end. That system is supposed to send data on customers and federal subsidy payments to insurers.
Error message rates for the front end are down to less than 1 percent per page from about 6 percent in October, the administration said in an assessment report yesterday. And after initially faltering with 1,100 users at a time, the site can now handle 50,000 at a time, or about 800,000 per day, according to the report.
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