With less than a month remaining in the first enrollment period, more than 4.2 million Americans have signed up for health insurance on marketplaces created by President Barack Obama’s health law, administration officials announced Tuesday.
The new enrollment report confirms that the administration and its allies will probably fall short of the 7 million sign-ups they had hoped to get for 2014.
The report also shows that health insurance sign-ups continued to recover in February from the disastrous launch of the federal HealthCare.gov website. More than 940,000 people enrolled in February.
Based on the experience of other programs, officials expect the rate of sign-ups to accelerate between now and the March 31 deadline for enrolling in coverage this year.
The sign-up figures overstate actual enrollment, however, as many consumers have not paid their insurance bills. Administration officials have not released figures on the number of paid premiums. Some insurers have reported that as many as 1 in 5 consumers has not yet paid.
California continues to lead all states through the first five months of enrollment, with nearly 869,000 people signed up for a health plan through the state’s marketplace, Covered California.
The Department of Health and Human Services had hoped 94,400 people in Missouri would have signed up for health insurance by Feb. 28. It reported that 74,469, or 78.9 percent of its goal, actually did.
The department had set a goal of 42,400 sign-ups in Kansas, but 29,309, or 69.1 percent, did so.
“Now, during this final month of open enrollment, our message to the American people is this,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “You still have time to get covered, but you'll want to sign up today.”
The state-based marketplaces — a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act — enable Americans who do not get coverage at work to select among plans that offer at least a basic set of benefits. The plans cannot turn away sick people.
It remains unclear how many of the people signing up for coverage were previously uninsured, a key measurement for the effectiveness of the landmark 2010 law.
But several new surveys suggest that the marketplaces may be having an effect on health coverage.
The share of Americans without insurance dropped in the first two months of 2014 to 15.9 percent, down from 17.1 percent in the last three months of 2013, according to a survey of 28,000 Americans by Gallup.
The survey’s authors noted that they cannot definitively conclude that the Affordable Care Act caused the change, but the decline started in the last three months of last year, just as the law took effect.
Consulting giant McKinsey Co., which has conducted four surveys of people who are eligible to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, found that 27 percent of those who signed up in February using the marketplaces were previously uninsured, up from 11 percent in its earlier surveys.
More than 4 in 5 of the people signing up for coverage are qualifying for subsidies, according to the new Obama administration enrollment report.
Many are also older, with just 27 percent of those who signed up in February in the coveted 18-34 age bracket, well below the 40 percent target administration officials have set.
Those who do not have a health plan by the end of open enrollment may be subject to a tax penalty.