(Bloomberg) -- About 106,000 people in the U.S. signed up for private health insurance through Obamacare last month, and 396,261 for Medicaid plans, according to data today that puts the U.S. government well behind its enrollment goals.
While the government had an early target of about 800,000 sign-ups in private plans for the first two months, it has scaled back expectations as delays and software flaws plagued the online federal exchange. Only 26,794 sign-ups for private plans were through the federal marketplace serving 36 states.
The lopsided enrollment between Medicaid, which is paid for with taxpayer money, and the private plans may boost criticism of the rising costs of the $1.4 trillion health law. High participation in the exchanges is critical to keeping the costs of medical coverage down as President Barack Obama seeks to expand health care to most of the nation’s 48 million uninsured.
“We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months,” Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “They’re also numbers that will grow as the website, healthcare.gov, continues to make steady improvements.”
California, the most populous U.S. state, built its own website. It recorded 35,364 enrollments in private plans and 79,519 made eligible for Medicaid, the state-run insurance programs for people living at or below the poverty level. North Dakota saw only 42 people successfully select private plans in October.
The insurance marketplaces were created to help consumers access federal subsidies and choose from a menu of private insurance plans that would take effect next year, when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to obtain insurance or pay a fine.
Illustrating the problems with the federal exchange website, Healthcare.gov, just 3% of the people who applied for coverage through the system actually selected a plan in October. At state-run exchanges, 15% of those who applied in October also selected a plan.
The government had a target of about 800,000 sign-ups nationwide for the first two months, and the Congressional Budget Office has projected that 7 million people would enroll through 2014.
The administration’s report emphasized that many more people visited the websites and began applications than actually enrolled, suggesting a large population waiting in the pipeline for the exchanges.
State and federal exchanges received 846,000 applications for insurance in October, covering 1.5 million people. About 1.1 million of them were determined eligible to enroll in an exchange plan, and 326,000 of them would benefit from a government subsidy. Yet only about 10% of them actually selected a plan last month.
The Obama administration has since shaken up management of the website and promised to get the exchanges fully functioning by the end of this month. Sebelius has apologized before two separate congressional committees for the botched rollout and said at least “a couple of hundred functional fixes” are being made
About 275,000 people who tried and failed to sign up for Obamacare health plans are being asked this week by the U.S. government to return to the website as the software flaws that initially shut them out are being corrected. Additional people who weren’t able to complete applications on the insurance exchange will be solicited later.
Americans have until Dec. 15 to enroll in coverage that starts Jan. 1. Those who don’t find health insurance by March 31 may have to pay a fine of as much as 1% of their income.
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