The December deluge: 1.1 million have enrolled on HealthCare.gov

December 29, 2013

Consider it Obamacare's December deluge.

More than 1.1 million people have enrolled for private health insurance through HealthCare.gov, the Obama administration announced early Sunday. More than 975,000 of them signed up this month, prior to the Dec. 24 deadline. In other words: Enrollment in the federal exchange was about nine times as high in December than all of October and November.

HealthCare.gov enrollment (in thousands)

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If you add in the state enrollment data that Charles Gaba has been keeping an eye on, you see enrollment growing from 90,000 in October to just about 2 million through late December.

Whether this is good news depends a bit on the context you put it in. Obviously enrollment has spike dramatically in December. Just as the administration has predicted -- and hoped -- there was a rush to sign-up in December, right before the deadline to get coverage starting Jan. 1. Lots of these people weren't first-time shoppers; many had started shopping in October and had been stymied by technical issues. Their December signup wasn't a product of procrastination: It tended to have a lot more to do with the fact the website wouldn't let them sign up earlier.

The administration had previously projected 3.3 million signups through the end of December, so 2 million obviously falls quite short of that. So while enrollment is increasing rapidly, the White House is still behind where it had expected to be at this point.

Most health policy experts would expect enrollment to level off, or even fall, in January and February, when shoppers aren't facing an imminent deadline. But they do foresee a big increase at the end of March, right before open enrollment closes. These next three months will be pretty important for seeing whether the law hits the Congressional Budget Office projection of 7 million enrollees in 2014 -- or, as it has in the first three months of enrollment, continues to fall short.

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Brad Plumer | December 29, 2013