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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Enrollment through the federal health marketplace surged last week as the deadline for signing up for a health plan with a Jan. 1 effective date came to a close.
Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 12, almost 2.5 million individuals selected a health plan through HealthCare.gov, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.
HealthCare.gov is the gateway to enroll in an Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," health plan in 37 states. The numbers released Tuesday do not reflect enrollment in the 13 states and District of Columbia that operate their own health insurance exchanges.
"Open enrollment from our view has just begun. It's been a strong start," Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator at the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said in a conference call with reporters.
The sign-up process this time around avoided the devastating technology problems that caused the 2014 open enrollment period to kick off with a thud.
Slavitt credited a technology and operating center that is focused on fixing problems as identified and improving the consumer experience.
The HealthCare.gov call center logged some 4 million calls during the first 30 days of open enrollment and nearly 1.6 million in the last three days alone. About 500,000 of the last-minute shoppers left their names with CMS and are being invited to sign-up for coverage effective Jan. 1, officials said.
"Our primary goal in all of this is to be as fair, efficient and flexible as possible," said Kevin Counihan, CEO of the federal health marketplace.
Most people who had marketplace coverage in 2014 will be automatically re-enrolled in their current plan. But CMS officials urge those people to review their options because they may find a better deal.
Counihan said that fewer than 5 percent of current enrollees were in health plans for 2014 that have been discontinued. In those instances, they will be re-enrolled in a comparable plan, or they may return to the marketplace and shop for a new one.
The 2015 enrollment period ends Feb. 15. Those who missed the Dec. 15 deadline can still enroll in a plan up until that point, but their coverage won't take effect on Jan. 1.
Before the start of the enrollment period, roughly 6.7 million Americans were enrolled in "Obamacare" health plans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has projected enrollment upwards of 9 million by the end of 2015, several million people fewer than what the Congressional Budget Office has predicted.
Counihan noted a "very high" level of enrollment activity across state-based insurance exchanges. He said 10 of the 14 state-based marketplaces have extended their open enrollment periods for coverage effective Jan. 1.
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SOURCES: Dec. 16, 2014, news conference with Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Kevin Counihan, CEO, HealthCare.gov