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Covered California enrollment expected to grow after low first month

Data for the first month of health care enrollment was released Wednesday. Covered California sign-ups are expected to rise.
November 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
We're getting a look at the first full month of health care enrollment numbers. As expected, the federal website showed the effects of its glitches.

The Obama administration says in October, 106,000 Americans selected plans, but only 26,794 did it through the federal government's site, HealthCare.gov.

In California, the numbers are better, with 35,364 people enrolled. The combined total for all other state-based exchanges is just 44,027.

But representatives with Covered California expect the state numbers to start climbing quickly. In just the first 12 days of November, they say another 30,000 people enrolled with Covered California.

"We always knew that October would be a light month, because people were going to start off doing their comparisons and shopping online and such, but it would pick up. Well, it picked up big time. Now we're at a pace where it's double what it was at the beginning of October. So we are really doing well now," said Dana Howard, a Covered California spokesman.

Meantime on Capitol Hill, the sixth hearing on the technical problems for HealthCare.gov was held on Wednesday. At this point, there is a very real possibility that HealthCare.gov will not be working smoothly for the vast majority of users by Nov. 30 as the White House continues to promise.

But administration officials insist that things have improved.

"Users can now successfully create an account, continue through the full application and enrollment processes," said Henry Chao, deputy director and deputy chief information officer of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Office of Information Services.

Administration officials and senior congressional Democrats expressed confidence in the program's future, saying they expect enrollment to grow substantially throughout the next five months.

Many House Republicans don't want to fix Obamacare. They want to get rid of the law altogether. Many say that even Wednesday's feeble sign-up figures appeared to be pumped up. The final number - 106,185 people - would be even smaller if it counted only those who finalized their enrollment by actually paying their first month's premium, Republicans said.

On Friday, House Republicans will present a measure that would allow the millions of Americans who are getting cancellation letters from their insurance companies to keep their plans.

Senate Democrats are proposing similar legislation. The White House said the president will announce options to address that issue sooner rather than later.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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