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HealthCare.gov signs up 543,000 in week one, outpacing 2014 results

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(Bloomberg) — More than half a million people selected Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange plans through the HealthCare.gov public exchange enrollment system during the first week that the public exchanges were open, in what is projected to be a challenging year of trying to reach new people who haven’t yet gotten insurance under the law.

HealthCare.gov opened for business on Sunday, Nov. 1. From Nov. 1 through Nov. 7, 543,098 people picked plans through the website. Last year, when HealthCare.gov opened for business on Nov. 15, about 462,000 people signed up for coverage during the first week of enrollment. The new first-week total is 17 percent higher than the total for the first week of 2014.

The numbers aren’t perfectly comparable to the 2014 numbers, because Hawaii is now using HealthCare.gov for enrollment rather than its own state-based enrollment system.

In a blog post, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), called the sign-up figures “a solid start.” The deadline to sign up for policies that take effect on Jan. 1 is Dec. 15, and the last day to pick a 2016 policy is Jan. 31.

See also: Obama warns of ‘misinformation’ during PPACA enrollment

About two-thirds of those who selected a plan for 20216 already had 2015 exchange plan coverage, while the rest were new to the exchanges, said the government, which plans to release weekly sign-up tallies this year.

HHS has said it hopes to have about 10 million people enrolled in individual exchange plans, or “qualified health plans” (QHPs), by the end of 2016, up from a 2015 year-end projection of 9.1 million.

The people who remain uninsured will be harder to reach this year, Burwell has said. Many have lower incomes or are younger, and they’re often unfamiliar with the law and its subsidies, the government has said.

The HHS plan selection total does not include enrollment numbers for states like California and New York that have state-based, state-operated exchange programs.

See also: 3 ways to grade the third PPACA open enrollment period

HHS includes consumers in the sign-up total only after the consumers have selected plans, but HHS is also tracking application activity. Applications for 1.15 million people were submitted in the first week.

About 3.2 million people used the HealthCare.gov website, and 66,051 used a Spanish-language version of the site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov.