U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shakes hands with Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) as she arrives for the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on October 30, 2013. Sebelius apologized to consumers but said improvements have been made to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) website and that it will be fixed within a month. UPI/Yuri Gripas. | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- More than 106,000 people chose healthcare plans in the first period of open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act's Marketplace, the Obama administration said.
The Department of Health and Human Services also said Wednesday 975,407 other customers have gone through the process but not selected a plan. An additional 396,261 were assessed or determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, also under the act.
The first reporting period was from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2.
The figures include enrollment by state, including each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, but the department said only partial figures were available in Marketplaces run by the states.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the enrollment numbers "poor."
"While the Obama White House is sure to blame the poor enrollment numbers on the many unacceptable tech glitches that have frustrated Americans, I maintain that the larger reason Obamacare has failed is because it was conceived based on a lie that Americans could keep their healthcare plans and has failed to address our No. 1 healthcare problem in America: soaring costs," he said.
Meanwhile, issues afflicting the federal health insurance website make it unlikely the site will work fully at November's end as the White House has vowed, an official said.
Healthcare.gov balks when more than 20,000 to 30,000 people try to use it as the same time, which is about half of its intended capacity, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The official said CGI Federal, the main contractor that built the site, succeeded in repairing only about 6-in-10 defects it has addressed so far.
Government workers and technical contractors working to repair the website -- which launched Oct. 1 to universal criticism over a variety of issues -- said the only way for a large numbers of Americans to enroll in the healthcare plans anytime soon is to use some other enrollment method.
Julie Bataille, director of communications at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services, said work is going on "24/7 to make improvements so that by the end of the month the site is working smoothly for the vast majority of users. We are making progress, including fixes to reduce error rates and get the site moving faster."
Debate over how to respond to Americans angered over losing their insurance picked up in Congress as well. The House plans to vote this week on a bill introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., that would extend this year's insurance plans for a year.
In the Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she was co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that would require insurers to offer 2013 plans on the individual market indefinitely.
The House Democratic leadership team was united in its opposition to the Upton bill, even if defections among the rank and file were likely, The Hill reported.
During a briefing Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he was "not closed" to possibly voting for Upton's bill, depending on the language in the final draft. Later, Hoyer's office said he would oppose the bill.
"The Upton legislation would create a new insurance market where people with pre-existing conditions would be discriminated against and women would pay more," a House Democratic aide told The Hill. "The bill would increase premiums and undermine the health reform law. While we have not seen the final text, the leadership will oppose this legislation as it is the 46th attempt to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act."
White House spokesman Jay Carney also indicated Tuesday President Obama opposed the bill, The Hill said.