Nationwide enrollment in private health plans under the Affordable Care Act has topped 2.1 million, the Obama administration said Tuesday as it prepared to tackle potential problems when coverage takes effect New Year’s Day.
The enrollment figure as of Dec. 28, announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, encompasses the federal health-insurance exchange serving 36 states and those who enrolled through exchanges in the 14 states that are running their own marketplaces.
The number represents a surge since Nov. 30, when the nationwide figure was about 365,000, but still falls short of a September estimate by the administration that some 3.3 million people would sign up for private plans by the end of the year.
On Sunday, the administration said 1.1 million people had enrolled in time for Jan. 1 coverage in the 36 states that are using the federal marketplace.
The deadline for enrolling in coverage that begins Jan. 1 was last week for people in most states. Some states were allowing people to sign up as late as Tuesday for coverage that begins Wednesday, New Year’s Day.
Uninsured people have until March 31 to sign up for coverage or run the risk of being required to pay a 2014 penalty of either $ 95 or 1% of taxable income, whichever is greater.
The federal figures and numbers from New York state’s exchange suggest people continued to enroll even after the deadline for Jan. 1 coverage passed. New York said it added about 6,150 people to private plans in the five days after its deadline passed on Christmas Eve. That brought the total number of New Yorkers who have enrolled in private plans to about 175,000, state officials said.
Administration officials now are bracing for paperwork problems that may crop up as consumers try to start using their new insurance at doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
“Problems that have never gotten attention before will get attention now,” said White House senior adviser Phil Schiliro on a conference call with reporters. He said there are often problems at the beginning of the year when consumers switch or obtain new insurance plans.
Both CVS Caremark Corp. and Walgreen Co. said Tuesday that they would work with customers who are having problems getting prescriptions as they transition to new health plans by providing up to a 30-day refill for those who can show proof of insurance.
“What we’re stressing to folks is that if they get to a provider and they have some problem, call their insurer,” Mr. Schiliro said. HHS officials told reporters Tuesday that they were talking daily with insurers to resolve issues with data regarding new enrollees.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in May 2013 that seven million people would enroll in new private health plans taking effect in 2014, while an additional nine million would enroll in the newly expanded Medicaid program.
The administration hasn’t released national numbers for Medicaid enrollment, but it said that 3.9 million people were judged eligible for Medicaid and a related children’s insurance program in October and November. That figure includes people who were renewing their Medicaid coverage as well as those signing up for the first time.
An additional three million young Americans have gotten coverage under their parents’ insurance plans, HHS officials said.
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