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December 21, 2013

Obama: 1 million have signed up for health care

Technical snags continue to plague website.

WASHINGTON (AP) — His health care plan facing a dicey transition, President Barack Obama said Friday that insurance sign-ups are surging now that the government’s website is working better for consumers. But it was too soon to say the rollout has turned the corner.

More than 1 million people have enrolled since Oct. 1, Obama said at his end-of-the-year press conference. That’s more than two-and-a-half times the number on Nov. 30, when major fixes to the website were completed. At that point, only 365,000 had signed up through new federal and state markets offering subsidized private insurance.

“That is a big deal,” Obama said of getting coverage for uninsured people. “That’s why I ran for this office.”

Separately, officials said 3.9 million people have qualified for government health care through the law’s Medicaid expansion. Even so, things aren’t exactly humming along.

HealthCare.gov was down for part of the day Friday, as technicians attempted to fix an error that occurred Thursday night when the site was undergoing routine maintenance, officials explained.

The administration cannot afford for the balky website to crash this weekend. Because of Monday’s deadline to sign up so coverage can take effect Jan. 1, unusually heavy traffic is expected on the federal site and those run by states.

Largely hidden from consumers, another set of technical problems is frustrating insurers, who say the government continues to send them inaccurate data on some enrolled individuals. Insurers call some of those jumbled enrollment files “orphans” and others “ghosts.”

They could turn into gremlins after Jan. 1 for some patients trying to use their new coverage. Consumers might show up at the pharmacy counter or doctor’s office only to be told they’re not in the system.

That’s not the only potential issue. Administration officials are scrambling to prevent breaks in coverage among more than 4 million people whose individual policies were cancelled this fall because they did not meet the law’s requirements. An estimated 500,000 have yet to secure new coverage. On Thursday, the administration said those individuals would not be penalized for remaining uninsured, and that they could also have access to special bare-bones catastrophic insurance plans.

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