A working website and more new customers than expected has Obamacare headed toward enrollment that will blow past the lowered projections of its managers.
With the program’s first deadline looming on Dec. 15, when people who want coverage beginning Jan. 1 must sign up, little has gone wrong so far in the second enrollment season for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Technical problems have been scattered and largely resolved. Consumer interest is strong, with 1.4 million people signed up through Dec. 5 in 37 states using the federal healthcare.gov system.
It’s a dramatic turnabout from a year ago, when the federal website was brought to a standstill by errors, requiring a two- month repair effort. The government will probably surpass a goal of 9.1 million signed up for private coverage by the time enrollment closes in February, said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“They should meet their target quite comfortably,” he said in an e-mail.
Caroline Pearson, a vice president at Avalere Health, a consulting firm in Washington, predicted that as many as 5 million new customers will join about 6 million expected to renew their 2014 coverage. The final number may depend on President Barack Obama, who helped create a surge of business last March by personally promoting enrollment, Pearson said.
“You cannot underestimate the bully pulpit of the White House in terms of actually getting people to wake up and realize there’s options for them,” she said in a phone interview.
Kevin Counihan, the chief executive officer of healthcare.gov, referred questions about enrollment to a spokesman, Aaron Albright, who didn’t immediately comment.
Obama appeared Dec. 8 on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” where he took the place of host Stephen Colbert for a regular segment called “The Word” -- retitled “The Decree” for his appearance -- to pitch enrollment to young viewers.
“Most young people can get covered for less than $100,” Obama said, using lines purportedly meant for Colbert. “How is the president going to get that message out to the kids? He could try to appeal to them directly through a speech or a press conference, but young people don’t watch real news shows like this one. They watch comedy shows, and I just don’t see the president going on one of those.”