Obamacare enrollment caught a bad cold in February—leaving officials scrambling to get nearly 2 million more people signed up by the looming March 31 end of open enrollment.
Total sign-ups in Obamacare plans sold on government exchanges topped 4.2 million people by the end of February, with about 943,000 people enrolling that month alone, officials said Tuesday.
The new data reveals a significant fall-off from January, when about 1.1 million people enrolled during the month.
Officials suggested the drop resulted in part from the fact there are fewer days in February, and said they were confident that the sign-up rate would pick up this month.
But their own original estimates had projected a significant spike in February enrollments over January, which failed to materialize.
The Obama administration last year estimated that 5.65 million people would be enrolled by the end of February, and that 1.27 million people would sign up in that month alone.
Those predictions were abandoned as unrealistic after the disastrous launch of the federally run Obamacare exchange HealthCare.gov on Oct.1. The technologically troubled site was unable to enroll more than 130,000 people by the end of the first two months of operation.
Another highlight—or low-light—of Tuesday's report was the disclosure that the rate of sign-ups by young adults, ages 18-34, had remained flat at 27 percent of total enrollment over the past two months.
That's well below the 40 percent level that some health-care experts have said would likely offset benefits paid out to older, sicker enrollees, which in turn would reduce pressure on insurers to significantly hike prices for 2015..
Officials including President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have been making media appearances directly targeting young adults to push them to sign up. Obama on Tuesday appeared in a snarky Funnyordie.com interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis, to tout the benefits of enrolling, an appearance the administration said led to tens of thousands of of direct clicks to HealthCare.gov from the Funnyordie video.
If the overall enrollment slowdown trend persists this month, it could leave the Obama administration short of the 6 million enrollees that Vice President Joe Biden recently set as a revised sign-up target for the March 31 deadline. Most Americans must have some form of health insurance by then or face a fine next year.
Officials reiterated Tuesday that there will not be any extension of the open-enrollment period, despite the fact they they previously have extended or adjusted a slew of other Obamacare deadlines and rules.
Under often-sharp questioning by reporters Tuesday, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille repeatedly refused to say whether the Obama Administration was confident it could hit its revised 6 million goal, which is 1 million less than what it had originally estimated last year.
"We do believe that millions more Americans will come into enroll by the March 31 deadline," Bataille said, without directly answering whether officials believed the 6 million target would be hit.
(Read more: Did ya' hear the one about Galifianakis and Obama?)