Remember that crush of online shoppers that promptly crashed HealthCare.gov and a few state marketplaces when the Obamacare health insurance exchanges opened for business last fall?
It has apparently happened again -- without the website drama this time.
President Barack Obama took time out Thursday during his swing through Italy to share the news via conference call with health care navigators. He said the exchanges have officially surpassed the government's goal to enroll 6 million Americans in health care plans during the initial six-month open enrollment period that ends Monday.
100K sign-ups per day
The proud POTUS said 1.5 million visitors had logged onto HealthCare.gov on Wednesday alone, with daily website enrollees averaging 100,000 a day since mid-March, signaling the same sort of rush, albeit from last-minute shoppers as opposed to first adopters, that shut down the exchanges within minutes of opening on Oct. 1. The federal portal serves as the default exchange for 36 states that elected to pass on the option to build their own under the Affordable Care Act.
In part due to the ill-prepared HealthCare.gov website, which took a few weeks and several changes of IT contractors to shore up, the feds dialed back their original goal of 7 million sign-ups by 1 million last fall. But following the December relaunch, traffic and sales picked up appreciably. By the end of February, an estimated 4.2 million consumers had obtained health insurance through the exchanges, and by mid-March, the number hit 5 million.
More time given
Last week, health officials announced a compromise with foot-draggers that gives those 11th-hour shoppers until roughly mid-April to obtain insurance and thus avoid the tax penalty under the individual mandate, so long as they get their application rolling before Monday's deadline. However, it remains unclear to what extent the deadline delay helped contribute to the last-minute rush that put Obamacare over its six-month goal.
A couple of other nuggets from the administration's latest update:
- No figures were released as to how many of the latecomers were healthy young Americans ages 18 to 30, the so-called "young invincibles" considered key to Obamacare's ultimate success.
- It is estimated that roughly 2 in 10 applicants have paid the first month's premium on their new policies.
With three full days remaining, there may yet be time to insure tens of thousands more Americans who are now just awakening to a reality many thought they'd never see: affordable health care, just a mouse click away.
Nostalgic for that crazy HealthCare.gov rollout? Here's my first-hand account of the day.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.
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