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Insurance exchange enrollment spikes as 2015 deadline nears

More than 600,000 people signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov during the third week of the open-enrollment period, according to HHS. That easily surpasses the pace of sign-ups during the initial two weeks of the enrollment window.

Nearly 1.4 million Americans have now selected a health plan for 2015 through the federal exchange. The marketplace customers are almost evenly split between those enrolling in coverage for the first time and those returning to HealthCare.gov.

“Open enrollment's momentum is building, and I've seen that firsthand as I traveled the country and talked to people from Florida to New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Texas,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in statement. Nearly 500,000 exchange customers selected plans during the first week of open enrollment, which started on Nov. 15. The figure dropped to just over 300,000 during the second week.

The figures released by HHS don't the 14 states and the District of Columbia that are handling enrollment through their own websites. In addition, the figures don't indicate whether customers have paid their first premiums, which is necessary for coverage to actually take effect.

It's anticipated that enrollments will swell in the coming days as the deadline to acquire 2015 coverage approaches. The deadline to enroll in coverage that will take effect at the start of 2015 is Dec. 15, although the open-enrollment period runs through Feb. 15. The exchange will likely see a disproportionate share of returning customers in the last days of December as they seek to avoid a break in coverage.

HealthCare.gov is averaging roughly 460,000 enrollments per week through Dec. 5. At that pace, nearly 6 million individuals will sign up for health plans by the close of the open-enrollment period, split almost equally between new and returning customers, through the federal exchange alone—that doesn't include enrollements through state exchanges in California, New York and elsewhere.

The CMS has estimated that 9.1 million people will obtain coverage through the state and federal exchanges for 2015, well below the Congressional Budget Office's projection that exchange enrollment would hit 13 million next year. As of October, just under 7 million individuals were enrolled in exchange plans, according to HHS.

Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko



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