WASHINGTON — More than 6 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the White House announced Thursday, reflecting a surge in enrollment after months of technical problems prevented many people from picking a plan.
The administration originally expected 7 million to buy health plans during the law's initial six-month enrollment period but revised its target to 6 million after the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, the federal website.
President Barack Obama shared the new total in a conference call with thousands of health care Web navigators and volunteers who are helping enroll people through state and federal marketplaces, urging them to redouble their efforts over the next few days. There were more than 1.5 million visits to HealthCare.gov and more than 430,000 calls to federal call centers Wednesday, administration officials said.
"We are seeing near-record numbers of consumers coming to check out their options and enroll in coverage," Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a blog post.
The announcement comes in the final days of the health law's sign-up period, when the most controversial legislation in decades was aggressively promoted by the administration and vehemently fought by its opponents.
The final enrollment figure will not be known until next month, in part because this week the administration extended the March 31 deadline into mid April for individuals who tried to enroll but failed to do so. In addition, not all consumers who are signing up will pay for their plans, which determines whether they will actually be covered.
"Falling 1 million short of the proclaimed goal is nothing to celebrate, not to mention the White House still refuses to disclose the most important figure of who's paid," said Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., vice chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "As the administration scrambles to conceal its incompetence, millions of Americans are now enduring canceled health plans, higher premiums and lost access to trusted doctors."
The higher numbers show many Americans are determined to get insured under the law, a process that has become easier after an extended period in which technical glitches made it nearly impossible in many states.
The Department of Health and Human Services had expected 1.2 million consumers to sign up this month; enrollment has already reached 1.8 million.