(Bloomberg) — About 462,000 people signed up for 2015 public exchange plan coverage through the HealthCare.gov enrollment system in the first week the exchanges run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) were open for business, HHS said today.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange program is now starting its second year.
HHS released the first of what it said would be weekly exchange program performance snapshots. Enrollment began Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15. The HHS tally includes only people who signed up for coverage through the HHS-run exchanges. Fourteen states run their own exchange enrollment systems.
During the week beginning Nov. 15, 1 million people submitted applications to find out if they’re eligible for coverage. Of the 462,000 people who chose health insurance plans, 48 percent were new customers. The others were renewing the exchange plan coverage they already have.
“It’s still early, and we have a long way to go but we’re off to a solid start,” the U.S. health secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, said during a conference call with reporters.
Last year, HealthCare.gov collapsed on its first day of business, and that poor performance was followed by months of delays and errors.
The enrollment system was rebuilt this year and put under new leadership. “We believe for the vast majority of consumers they’re having a faster, better, more intuitive experience,” said Andy Slavitt, the principal deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs the website for HHS.
“There have been bumps,” Slavitt said. “Some of them were first-day issues such as consumers forgetting passwords or user names. Some of the issues are the kind of tuning adjustments that you make when you go into a live environment.”
See also: 3 PPACA open enrollment surprises.
The Obama administration says its goal this year is to get 9.1 million people into exchange plans in 2015. A month ago, exchange plans were covering 6.7 million people.
Government analysts have said migration from employer-sponsored plans into exchange plans has been slower than they expected.
The administration has had to overcome a lack of awareness about the availability of coverage. Analysts at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has tracked consumer attitudes about PPACA since before its passage, said in an October survey that about 9 of 10 uninsured people didn’t know when enrollment in PPACA began.
HHS said it will work with Westfield Corp., which runs 40 shopping malls that serve 425 million people in the United States. Enrollment counselors will be stationed in malls to advise people on how to sign up and point them to locations, including in the shopping centers, where they can sign up. HHS will also work with pharmacies to advise people on how they can enroll in plans.
A segment of the population is resistant to signing up, according to a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 22 to Nov. 12. Among the uninsured, 55 percent said they’re more likely to get insurance, while 35 percent said they’d rather pay the fine that PPACA is set to impose on many people who fail to buy what the government defines as adequate health insurance. Ten percent weren’t sure, according to the poll.