(Bloomberg) — About 2.1 million people now have medical coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) after a late surge in enrollment helped regain ground lost to the botched debut of the PPACA insurance exchanges.
More than 1.6 million Americans signed up through state and federal exchanges in December alone, according to calculations from data released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The December tally is more than quadruple the total from the first two months of the government’s sign-up period.
Open enrollment started Oct. 1.
Because payments for coverage starting Jan. 1 are not due until Jan. 10 or later, HHS is using whether consumers have picked plans, not whether they have started paying for coverage, as the benchmark for determining whether consumers have enrolled in private “qualified health plan” (QHP) coverage.
Officials said they don’t know how many of the 2.1 million people who have picked QHPs have already paid for coverage.
The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that the PPACA exchanges could provide private coverage for as many as 7 million people by the end of March.
“The new law is transformational for our entire health care system, and for millions of Americans who finally have health security,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on a conference call.
In addition to helping 2.1 million people sign up for QHPs, the exchanges have helped 3.9 million people determine whether they were eligible for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plans.
The government was prepared for newly insured people to begin seeking care at doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and pharmacies yesterday, and it has been coordinating with hospitals and insurers to smooth the process, Sebelius said.