By Kathryn Mayer
Approximately 4 million Americans have now signed up for coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
exchanges, the Obama administration said Tuesday.
That’s a significant jump from the enrollment numbers officials released earlier this month: Just under 3.3 million people had selected coverage through the end of January.
A full enrollment report for February will be released in mid-March, officials said.
“With individuals and families enrolling in coverage every day, we continue to see strong demand nationwide from consumers who want access to quality, affordable coverage,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
“Our outreach efforts are in full force with community partners and local officials participating in hundreds of events each week and enrollment assistors are helping more and more people enroll in coverage,” she continued.
The announcement comes with just five weeks remaining in open enrollment. Despite the jump in enrollments, the number still falls short of the administration’s initial projections of having 7 million Americans enrolled this year.
The law’s slow start is often blamed by website problems that plagued HealthCare.gov
for months, but a lack of awareness of PPACA has also plagued its success.
Last month, for example, a Bankrate.com report found that more than half of Americans still don’t know that the deadline to sign up for health insurance under PPACA is March 31. Confusion over the deadline was highest among the 18-to-29 age group, those who make less than $30,000 annually, and those without college degrees.
Under the PPACA, virtually all Americans must buy health insurance by March 31. Those who don't have to pay a tax penalty under the law and will be forced to wait until next year’s open enrollment to get insurance -- unless they experience a qualifying event such as marriage in the interim.
In 2014, the penalty is $95, or 1 percent of a person’s income, whichever is higher. The penalty escalates in subsequent years.
Last week, analysts at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation projected that tax season might boost PPACA enrollments, as tax preparers could be a key source of assistance for the millions of uninsured consumers
who remain uneducated about the health reform law.
Originally published on BenefitsPro.com