11.4 million Americans sign up for Obamacare at deadline, White House says

Screenshot from Facebook video by The White House
Approximately 11.4 million Americans have signed up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said Tuesday. The number exceeds the White House’s projections but falls short of Congress’ initial expectation.

The White House added that the number could grow because the administration is offering a grace period of a week for applications not completed by the February 15 deadline. Enrolling in a health plan is mandatory under the individual mandate and will levy fines on those left without insurance.

The announcement came in a video released in the White House Facebook page, which featured President Obama hearing the latest figures of people signing up for private health insurance from Sylvia Burrell, Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Post by The White House.

It gives you some sense of how hungry people were out there for affordable accessible health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is working,” Obama said in a White House Video. “It’s working a little better than we anticipated. Certainly, I think, [it’s] working a lot better than many of the critics talked about early on."

Before the deadline, the administration expected some 9.1 million to sign up, but the Congressional Budget Office had estimated that some 12 million would enroll by the law’s second year in action.

READ MORE: Obamacare’s Medicaid gap still leaves millions uninsured as enrollment hits 2.5mn

Burrell said more people signed up on near the deadline than had signed up before. Democratic lawmakers are seeking a second change for people to sign up for insurance to avoid facing tax penalties.

Last year, 8 million people had initially signed up, but by fall, just 6.7 million were still in the program. Some of those who left found other coverage, through a job for example, but others had their plans canceled after the government could not verify their legal status.

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare), more than 41 million Americans were without health insurance in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Despite 11.4 million Americans gaining health coverage, millions remain unable to afford the premiums available on exchanges and they don’t qualify for Medicaid in states that chose not to expand the program. Others don’t work enough to qualify for insurance through their employer. The resulting “Medicaid gap” means millions of working Americans still cannot get insurance.

Two thirds of the people who fall into the gap are in a working family,” Rachel Garfield, senior researcher for the Kaiser Family Foundation said in January. “They are just working in jobs that don’t offer affordable health insurance coverage.”

READ MORE:Cost of Obamacare drops but millions to stay uninsured

Garfield thinks 4 million people are in this situation – eligible for Medicaid under the ACA’s new expansion but not eligible for anything else.

“Most of them are adults without children, 86 percent live in the South, over half are middle-aged or older and minorities are disproportionately represented. Also they work,” Garfield said.

The nonpartisan CBO estimates that this year there will be 19 million fewer uninsured Americans than if the law had never passed.