The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) public exchange system may be on track to start 2015 with more than 7 million qualified health plan (QHP) enrollees.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced that it had received QHP selection information for 6.4 million people by Dec. 19. About 30 percent of the QHP selectors, or about 1.9 million, are new to the exchange system.

The figures cover only enrollment through the exchanges run by the HHS. Charles Gaba, the editor of the ACASignups.net blog, estimates the state-based exchanges may have taken in QHP selection information for about 2.1 million people.

The HHS exchange QHP selector count has increased from 2.4 million on Dec. 12.

PPACA exchange plan open enrollment for 2015 started Nov. 15 and is set to run until Feb. 15, 2015.

At the HHS exchanges, consumers had to select QHPs by Dec. 15 to have coverage in place by Jan. 1, 2015. Deadlines for Jan. 1 coverage at the state-based exchanges varied. In the past, roughly 85 percent of the people who have chosen QHPs have ended up paying for the coverage.

The new HHS exchange total includes some people who enrolled after Dec. 15 and may have coverage that will start Feb. 15.

If the exchanges now have about 8 million users who are eligible to have QHP coverage in place by Jan. 1, they could end up with about 7 million paid QHP enrollees on New Year’s Day.

Before this week, HHS was counting only people who had used the exchange system to choose new QHP coverage or change QHP coverage in activity totals. Now, HHS is including people who have 2014 exchange QHP coverage and are using an automatic renewal process to keep their coverage in place in 2015.

HHS did not say how many of the 6.4 million QHP selectors came in through the auto renewal process, but, based on the trends reported in earlier weeks, it looks as if about 2.7 million people have auto-renewed HHS exchange QHP coverage and 2 million 2014 QHP users visited the exchange to get 2015 QHP coverage.