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Obamacare signups on federal exchange HealthCare.gov hit almost 8.8 million amid repeal efforts

Almost 8.8 million people signed up as of last Saturday for insurance plans sold by the federal Obamacare health plan marketplace for 2017 coverage, officials announced Wednesday.

That tally compares to about 8.6 million plan selections on that HealthCare.gov exchange during the same time period for the prior open-enrollment season. HealthCare.gov serves customers in 39 states; the remaining are served by their own, state-run marketplaces.

"With 8.8 million Americans signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov, more than last year at this time, it is clear that Americans want and need this vital coverage," said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

"As we enter the New Year, Americans who are still uninsured should sign up by January 15th to have coverage starting February 1."

About 6.55 million of the plan selections were from returning customers. The remaining 2.2 million were from new HealthCare.gov customers.

The sign-up report was released a day after Republicans in the United States Senate took the first steps toward a planned repeal of key parts of Obamacare, including ending the subsidies that more than 80 percent of current customers of Obamacare exchanges receive.

The GOP has indicted that it will suspend the effects of the repeal to give time for a replacement plan to be crafted and adopted, it is not clear what form that replacement would take.

Experts have said that if Republicans follow the outlines of prior suggestions for replacement plans that millions of Americans could lose coverage.

Since the ACA went into effect, about 20 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage.

The ACA required nearly all Americans to have some form of coverage or pay a tax penalty.