WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Nearly 1 million uninsured Americans bought health insurance via the federal marketplace website HealthCare.gov in December, a U.S. official says.
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in a blog Sunday: "As we continue our open enrollment campaign, we experienced a welcome surge in enrollment as millions of Americans seek access to affordable healthcare coverage through new health insurance marketplaces nationwide."
"More than 1.1 million people enrolled in a qualified health plan via the federally facilitated marketplace from Oct. 1 to Dec. 24, with more than 975,000 of those enrolling December alone," Tavenner wrote.
"Our HealthCare.gov enrollment nearly doubled in the days before the Jan. 1 coverage deadline compared to the first few weeks of the month."
The HealthCare.gov encountered numerous problems when it was unveiled Oct. 1, with snafus lingering into November, but after the Obama administration's self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to "fix" the website, its functionality improved through December. By the Dec. 24 deadline for the uninsured to buy insurance effective for Jan. 1, the website was able to handle the traffic, the administration said.
"December enrollment so far is more than seven times that of October and November. In part, this was because we met our marks on improving HealthCare.gov: the site supported 83,000 concurrent users on Dec. 23 alone," Tavenner wrote.
"We are in the middle of a sustained, six-month open enrollment period that we expect to see enrollment ramp up over time, much like other historic implementation efforts we've seen in Massachusetts and Medicare Part D."
HealthCare.gov covers the 36 states that chose not provide a state online marketplace and the tally of the 14 states with their own health insurance marketplace is not yet available, but a similar surge of insurance applicants may have occurred in December as well.
For example, in New York, a state with 1.9 million uninsured, announced last Monday before it extended the deadline to Tuesday, that in the past week 53,924 people signed up for coverage.
Donna Frescatore, executive director of NY State of Health, told the New York Daily News: "We are pleased that nearly 189,000 New Yorkers have enrolled so far, and another 422,000 have completed applications for quality, low-cost health insurance."
The uninsured have until March 30 to enroll for coverage without penalty.