Obama administration declares 'new day' for health care

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 31, 2013 

US NEWS OBAMA-HEALTHCARE 1 ABA

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the Afforable Care Act in the Rose Garden of the White House on Monday, October 21, 2013.

OLIVIER DOULIERY — MCT

The Obama administration said Tuesday that 2.1 million people have enrolled for health insurance through the state and federal marketplaces, just as many provisions of the Affordable Care Act begin to kick in at the start of the year.

In addition, the administration said, 3.9 million people have obtained coverage through Medicaid and the Childrens Health Insurance Program, and about 3 million under 26 are getting coverage through their parents' insurance plans.

"Tomorrow is New Year's Day, and it's a new day for health care for millions of Americans," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who announced the new numbers in a conference call. "The new law is transformational for our entire health care system and for millions of Americans who finally have health security."

The administration wouldn't say how many of the 2.1 million who have signed up for insurance have yet to pay for their first month's premium, but spokeswoman Julie Bataille said the agency is "confident" that consumers know they have to pay for it. She noted some premiums aren't due until Jan. 10.

The 2 million figure is considerably less than the administration's initial year-end goal of 3.3 million, but administration officials said the numbers are rising as the much maligned website improves.

The agency said both states and the federal government saw a surge in enrollment in December. Enrollment on the federal site, healthcare.gov, nearly doubled in the days before the Jan.1 coverage deadline compared to the first weeks of the month, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a blog posting.

Nationwide, including state and federal marketplaces, December enrollment so far is nearly six times that of October and November combined.

Administration officials have said they plan to staff the sites despite the New Year's holiday with 10,000 agents on call.

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