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HHS: Federal Obamacare marketplace numbers even lower than estimated

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The official enrollment numbers for the federally facilitated Obamacare marketplaces are out -- and they're even lower than estimates discussed for the past few days indicated.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that "two people with access to the figures" said roughly 40,000 Americans have signed up for private health insurance in the first six weeks that the federal marketplace has been open. This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said the number of federal enrollments through Nov. 2 was 26,794. For Pennsylvania, the figure was 2,207.

Those numbers represent everyone who has made it through the eligibility process and selected a plan who either have or have not yet paid the first month's premium. It does not include Medicaid.

According to much-discussed reports based on internal administration memos, about 500,000 people were expected to enroll in private health insurance via the state and federal marketplaces by the end of October. The actual figure was just over a fifth of that, according to the HHS news release: 106,185.

The news release said Obamacare enrollment exceeds that of the first month of a similar program in Massachusetts. That Obamacare precursor saw only 123 people sign up -- just 0.3 percent of the total enrollment of 36,167 at the end of the year. The Obamacare marketplace enrollment, by contrast, is 1.5 percent of the estimated enrollment at the end of the 2014 open enrollment period, the news release said.

Pittsburgh-based health insurer Highmark Inc. released the following statement:

"The enrollment* that we have received through the federal marketplace has been low to date:

  • Pennsylvania: 1,665
  • West Virginia: 198
  • Delaware: 126

"There is an urgent need to improve the functionality of the federal marketplace as soon as possible to ensure that consumers have enough time to enroll by Dec. 15, 2013 for the earliest effective date of Jan. 1, 2014.

"Federal subsidies are only available to consumers through the federal marketplace. For individuals that will likely be eligible for subsidy, we are encouraging them to be patient while the federal government enhances www.healthcare.gov to where they can complete the application process. Consumers that are not seeking subsidies do not have to go through the federal marketplace. They can enroll with us directly — in the same plans and at the same prices as those we offer on the federal marketplace. We encourage people to learn more about our individual plans and our rates by visiting www.discoverhighmark.com. We are here to help with representatives by phone or through our local Highmark Direct stores in Pennsylvania. Also, individuals can talk with a local health insurance broker.

*Enrollment numbers as of Nov. 12, 2013 are of those who have been loaded to Highmark's system through completed on-exchange enrollments (834s that have been verified and processed by Highmark). These enrolled members have not yet paid their first month's premium, therefore have not completed the entire enrollment process."

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Click here to see the complete release with detailed numbers.

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits, education and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at heathers@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.

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