Demand for Obamacare insurance plans strongly accelerated in the days leading up to a key enrollment deadline, with the HealthCare.gov federal exchange signing up more than 1 million customers in one week and indications that many more enrollees are on the way, officials announced Tuesday.
By last Friday, total sign-ups on HealthCare.gov for the ongoing open enrollment season had topped 2.466 million customers since Nov. 15, roughly split between new customers and returning ones, officials said.
That tally did not include sign-ups from "an extremely busy weekend" into Monday, the day that HealthCare.gov had set as a deadline for selecting health plans that take effect Jan. 1, according to Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Nor did it include several million current HealthCare.gov customers who on Tuesday began being automatically re-enrolled in their existing health plans. Most existing Obamacare customers are subject to automatic re-enrollment unless they switch plans or drop coverage. HealthCare.gov sells health insurance in the 37 states not operating their own insurance marketplace.
The tallies released Tuesday also do not include sign-ups from the 14 exchanges being run by individual states and the District of Columbia. Those exchanges release their data separately, and there are, so far, no official numbers for national sign-ups or other enrollment-related data.
But HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan said "we know that activity has been very high" on the state-run Obamacare exchanges from late last week. He noted that 10 out of the 14 state exchanges have extended their deadlines, to as late as next Tuesday, for signing up for coverage taking effect Jan. 1.
"The demand is strong," Counihan said, referring to customers on those other exchanges.
Slavitt said that over the weekend and into Monday, HealthCare.gov's call center handled 1.6 million calls from people with questions, or looking to apply and enroll online. There were a million calls on Monday alone.
On Sunday and Monday, the call center took the names of nearly 500,000 people who were interested in enrolling in plans, who now are starting to get calls back to ensure they can have coverage that begins by New Year's Day, Slavitt said.
And "we saw more than 3 million unique users on the website" over the weekend and into Monday, Slavitt said.
"Open enrollment from our view has just begun. It's been a strong start," Slavitt said. "We're very pleased.
"But we very much feel like the next 60 days are critical," Slavitt said, referring to the Feb. 15 open enrollment deadline.