There's going to be a lot of new Obamacare plans underneath Christmas trees on Thursday.
As of last Friday, about 6.4 million people had signed up for 2015 health insurance plans sold on HealthCare.gov, the federal Obamacare exchange that serves 37 states, officials announced Tuesday.
That big number included about 1.9 million new customers, existing Obamacare customers who actively re-enrolled since sign-ups began Nov. 15, and people who were automatically re-enrolled in their current health coverage in the past week, according to the Health and Human Services Department.
The tally reflects a surge in sign-ups that occurred in advance of HealthCare.gov's Dec. 15 deadline for enrolling in plans that take effect Jan. 1. It also reflects the policy of automatic re-enrollment for most current customers, which began Dec. 16 and was completed by last Thursday.
When the 6.4 million HealthCare.gov total is added to confirmed sign-ups from the 13 Obamacare exchanges run by states and the District of Columbia, total enrollment for 2015 plans in this open-enrollment season is about 7.44 million, according to data compiled by the Obamacare tracking site ACASignups.net.
"I expected a surge in enrollment as the year wound down, but this was a bigger surge than I expected," said Larry Levitt, a Kaiser Family Foundation expert on Obamacare.
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Levitt also said "it seems pretty clear at this point that the [Obama[ administration will exceed their target" of having 9.1 million people enrolled in Affordable Care Act insurance plans sold through government-run exchanges by the end of 2015. To be considered officially enrolled, a customer must make a premium payment.
He said he expects another big surge in sign-ups in advance of the Feb. 15 close of open enrollment. "If you don't sign up by February 15, you can't get insurance for the rest of 2015," Levitt noted.
He said it will be tougher this year to sign up new, currently uninsured customers for Obamacare plans than it was during the first open-enrollment season, which ended in mid-April.