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Obamacare Coverage Estimate Unchanged by U.S. Budget Office

The Congressional Budget Office, the main arbiter of Obamacare’s effects on the economy, left unchanged its estimate of the number of people expected to gain insurance coverage under the law.

About 6 million people on average are expected to be enrolled this year in private health plans using new insurance exchanges created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the budget agency said. The U.S. health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, said before her resignation was announced April 10 that 7.5 million had already signed up for private plans; enrollment ends tomorrow.

That figure exceeded the CBO’s estimates of enrollment before the exchanges opened Oct. 1 and technology failures prevented millions of Americans from immediately signing up. The agency revised its estimate downward to 6 million in February. President Barack Obama credited Sebelius with the turn-around even as he announced his nominee to replace her, White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, in an April 11 speech.

“Under Kathleen’s leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself,” Obama said.

The CBO’s latest estimate is for all of 2014 and includes people who are able to sign up after April 15 because of life-changing events such as marriage or losing a job. The agency said that 7 million would also join Medicaid, the program for low-income people that is being expanded in 26 states, a decrease of 1 million since February.

Subsidies to help people pay premiums for Affordable Care Act plans will cost $17 billion this year, down $3 billion from February, the agency said. The Medicaid expansion is expected to cost $20 billion, up $1 billion from February.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at awayne3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net Angela Zimm

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