Nearly 365,000 Americans selected new insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act during October and November, but only 137,000 of those people fully enrolled in a plan through HealthCare.gov last month, the federal government's troubled online marketplace, according to figures released by the Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday.
That’s far shy of the administration’s goal of signing up 7 million people by the end of the enrollment period on March 31, but a sign that HealthCare.gov improved significantly during its second month online and in advance of an end-of-November deadline for the site to be working properly for the vast majority of users.
About 250,000 people enrolled in insurance plans in November alone, about four times as many as enrolled in October, HHS Communications Director Julie Bataille said during a conference call with reporters.
Just about 137,000 of those people enrolled in one of the 36 states that are wholly operated by the federal exchange, however, compared with about 227,000 who enrolled through state exchanges.
While some state exchanges were burdened by bugs in shared components with the federal site or by glitches of their own, they generally performed significantly better than the federal exchange during its first two months.
HealthCare.gov showed error messages for the majority of its users when it first launched, necessitating 400 bug fixes, more server capacity and a new management structure before it was operating properly.
Michael Hash, director of HHS’s Office of Health Reform, said he was not worried about the government reaching its enrollment figures by the end of March, noting that officials expect enrollment to grow month by month and for the largest share of consumers to come to the site as the March 31 deadline draws near.
“We fully expect these numbers to grow over time, not only as we continue to improve HealthCare.gov but as we continue our aggressive outreach and public education efforts,” Bataille said.
Bataille declined to release enrollment figures for the first week of December after the administration claimed HealthCare.gov was operating at an acceptable level of functionality.
Officials have been hesitant to release enrollment figures since HealthCare.gov came online, saying they’d be misleading so early in the enrollment process. Skeptics have charged the administration is trying to shield the site’s troubles from the public.
Observers fear that if not enough people enroll through the federal and state exchanges, insurance pools will face unacceptable levels of risk level, rendering plans unaffordable for poor consumers.
About 29,000 people signed up for insurance through HealthCare.gov on the first two days following the Nov. 30 deadline, according to unofficial reports.
About 39 million people visited HealthCare.gov during its first two months online and 3.7 million visited the site during the first week of December, according to an HHS blog post.
Since Nov. 30, the site has been experiencing error rates lower than 1 percent and is responding to customers’ clicks in less than a second.