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400,000 sign up for PPACA after deadline

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(Bloomberg) — About 400,000 people signed up for private health insurance under PPACA since a deadline passed that was initially supposed to end enrollment, the U.S. health secretary said today.

While the official enrollment period ended March 31, the Obama administration said that people who tried to sign up before the deadline would have until April 15 to complete their applications. The late enrollees bring the total number to 7.5 million in private health plans, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services said at a Senate hearing today.

The total enrollment eclipses a Congressional Budget Office estimate of 7 million set last year. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, called the figure a “false metric” in an opening statement at the hearing, and questioned Sebelius about how many people who signed up under the law previously lacked health insurance.

“I do not have data to give you right now in terms of who exactly was previously uninsured,” she said. “We are collecting that.”

She said a RAND Corp. study released this week estimated that 9.3 million people had gained insurance under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including through new private plans sold through insurance exchanges and an expansion of Medicaid in about half the states.

“Those numbers are going to be much more significant by the time we tally the newcomers,” Sebelius said.

Hatch criticized the administration’s spending to begin the law. He said the government spent $736 million advertising the new insurance programs, and $1.3 billion in total, including the costs of setting up the federal website and call centers to provide phone assistance to those signing up.

“These are enormous sums of money” given the number of people enrolled, he said.

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