Obamacare Enrollment Increases in November

More than four times as many people signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange in November than October.

Part of the HealthCare.gov website is photographed in Washington, on Nov. 29, 2013.
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More than four times as many people signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange in November than October.

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Critics of Obamacare have some backpedaling to do, but don't expect any apologies yet. The latest numbers show that 365,000 people have chosen health insurance plans through the state and federal marketplaces, according to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday. In November alone, 110,410 individuals signed up for health care plans through the federal marketplace - more than four times the 26,694 enrollees in October.

"More and more Americans are finding that quality, affordable coverage is within reach and that they'll no longer need to worry about barriers they may have faced in the past – like being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee shortly after the numbers' release.

According to Sebelius, the rise in enrollment proves that the website is working better.

"To those who've been frustrated with the experience before, we are asking you to come back," she said.

Also Wednesday, Sebelius announced there would be an investigation by the HHS inspector general into the flawed rollout of HealthCare.gov. She explained the purpose of the investigation would be to "take action and avoid problems in the future."

The investigation will look at contractor acquisition, as well as performance and payment activity. HHS also will appoint a full-time chief risk officer, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will update and expand employee training.

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But Sebelius' efforts aren't enough to satisfy Republican opponents. Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., criticized Sebelius and HHS for delayed deadlines and millions of canceled plans.

 Upton said he heard from a member of HHS that 30 to 40 percent of the website hadn't been built yet.

"My constituents have repeatedly expressed to me that they feel they were lied to by the administration about the real effects of this law," said Pitts.

But Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said Republicans were exaggerating when they spoke about a "disastrous rollout" and "worlds turned upside down" by the new health law.

"Republicans seem to be saying that things haven't improved when really they've improved a lot," Pallone said.

Asked to explain the newly released enrollment data, Sebelius defined enrollment as the number of people who have chosen a plan. More than one Republican legislator implied that the numbers were misleading because they didn't show the number of people who had actually bought plans.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., went so far as to call the numbers "fraudulent."

"When Amazon.com records a book is sold, they record a book sold based on someone who's paid for it, not what's in their shopping cart and not what's in their wish list," Shimkus said.

Sebelius argued that the numbers showing people who had paid for plans would be inaccurate, because payments aren't due until the end of the year.

"Most Americans will not pay until their money is owed," she said.

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Since the start of enrollment in October, 1.2 million Americans have chosen a plan or been deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), according to HHS. Another 1.9 million were deemed eligible for insurance but have not yet chosen a plan, which is nearly twice the number in October alone, when about 975,400 people were made eligible.

California showed the highest number of enrollments among state-based marketplaces from Oct.1-Nov. 30 with about 107,000, and New York followed with 45,000 enrollments. Among the federally run marketplaces, Florida outpaced other states with almost 18,000 enrollments, followed by Texas with 14,000.