US

Obamacare Enrollment Tops 450,000 So Far

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that over 450,000 customers selected plans at HealthCare.gov during the first week of open enrollment. 

The Department of Health and Human Services said on a closed press call that 462,125 people have selected Obamacare plans on the federal marketplace, which serves 37 states. Of those, 48 percent — around 221,000 people — were new customers seeking Obamacare coverage for the first time, while 52 percent (240,000) were renewing or changing the plans they purchased in 2014.

That’s a massive increase from Obamacare’s inaugural open enrollment period last year, when the administration was struggling with a nonfunctional HealthCare.gov. Thirteen months later, the federal Obamacare exchange appears to be working much better.

The updated enrollment numbers, released at a time when much of the public has checked out before the Thanksgiving holiday, did not come with an official HHS report, as was typical during last year’s open enrollment period. The federal government stopped issuing the reports last May, much to the chagrin of liberals and conservatives alike.

HHS has already received pushback for failing to release open enrollment so far, especially after the administration made it clear that they were able to release totals at any time with a “good news” figure on the second day of the enrollment period.

The Washington Post called the administration “stingy” with enrollment numbers, while CNBC asked “Cat got your tongue, HealthCare.gov?

In all, eight states managed to release their total number of sign-ups before the federal government. One state, Massachusetts, has one-upped every exchange by releasing enrollment updates daily. (RELATED: Obamacare Transparency Pledges Undercut By Silence On Sign-Ups)

During the first open enrollment period, HHS was selective about what information they would release. Enrollment updates came only once a month — or whenever the administration had hit a milestone officials wanted to celebrate. When enrollment was hurting, such as in the first month-and-a-half of the open enrollment period, officials were silent.

But this year, HHS secretary Burwell has vowed to increase transparency, especially in light of the agency’s promotion of false enrollment numbers for three months, uncovered last week by a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation.

Like last year, CMS will release a detailed, monthly report on plan selection that encompasses both HealthCare.gov and the several state-run Obamacare exchanges. But this year, according to HHS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will also release “snapshots” every week of preliminary enrollment totals.

In addition to those who have already selected a plan, 3.7 million people used HealthCare.gov between Nov. 15 and Nov. 21. Another 95,730 visited CuidadoDeSalud.gov, the Spanish-language version of the federal Obamacare website.

Before the second open enrollment period launched, HHS downgraded the administration’s enrollment expectation for 2015. While the Congressional Budget Office projected 13 million total customers by next year, HHS is lowering expectations by estimating just over nine million.

Follow Sarah on Twitter