By Kathryn Mayer
PPACA enrollment surged in March, with signups now totaling more than 5 million, the Obama administration announced this week.
Just last week, the administration said 4.2 million had signed up for coverage through the end of February. The new figures indicate 800,000 more have enrolled in coverage through the law’s exchanges so far in March.
“As this historic open enrollment period enters its final weeks, millions of Americans are finding quality, affordable coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act
,” Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in a blog post Monday.
In the post, Tavenner said the last several days have been the busiest for the exchanges since December. They fielded more than 130,000 calls over the weekend and the site saw more than 4 million visits last week.
The new enrollment figures come with just two weeks left in open enrollment. The deadline to sign up for coverage is March 31.
Those who miss the March 31 deadline will pay a tax penalty under the law and be forced to wait until next year’s enrollment window to get insurance — unless they experience a qualifying event 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.
Though the spike in enrollment is good news for the administration, it remains unlikely that the law will hit its target of 6 million people by the end of the month.
Also on Monday, a Bankrate report found that more than a third of uninsured Americans (34 percent) don’t plan on buying health insurance, despite the law’s requirement to do so.
Initially, the administration said they’d have 7 million Americans
enrolled under PPACA this year, but has since backed away from that. The law’s slow start is often blamed by website problems that plagued HealthCare.gov for months, but a lack of awareness of PPACA also has hampered its success.
Analysis from consulting firm Avalere Health last week projected that exchange enrollment is on track to reach 5.4 million by the end of March.
Originally published on BenefitsPro.com