(Bloomberg) — Six million Americans have signed up for private health plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said today, a symbolic milestone for a government that has struggled to get the law off the ground.
Obama announced reaching the mark on a conference call today with thousands of workers who had helped enroll people, according to an e-mail the White House sent to reporters. The president encouraged the workers in the call “to redouble their efforts over the next four days” before March 31, the deadline when Americans must have started the application process or face a fine of up to 1 percent of their income.
Nearly four million people have visited healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment website, since Monday and hundreds of thousands of people have phoned government call centers in advance of the deadline, officials said. States running their own enrollment systems under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have reported a similar surge.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest, a lot of demand in these final days of the enrollment period,” said Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, on a conference call with reporters today.
The Affordable Care Act is aimed at offering health insurance to most of the nation’s 48 million uninsured residents. The 6-million mark meets an estimate published by the Congressional Budget Office in February. That figure was revised down from an initial estimate of 7 million before the troubled start of enrollment in October.
Dispatched to states
Munoz and other top administration officials including Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, and the U.S. health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, have been dispatched to Republican-run states around the country this week to observe and assist enrollment efforts.
In most states, people who don’t begin an application for coverage before 11:59 on March 31 won’t have another chance to enroll before November, for coverage that won’t start until January 2015.
The government said March 17 that 5 million people had enrolled, suggesting that more than 100,000 per day, on average, have signed up since then. The figure does not take into account people who didn’t pay their first premium to their insurers, the final step required to complete enrollment.
Congressional Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for not revealing the number of people who have paid their premiums. Federal officials say they don’t have a complete count from insurers.