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Health Care Enrollments Up, But Still Well Short Of Goal

Another 940,000 people signed up for health insurance in February under the Affordable Care Act, bringing the total to 4.2 million since the troubled HealthCare.gov website was launched, the Department of Health and Human Services reports. The number is still well short of the administration's goal for March 31, when open enrollment ends.

To reach 6 million sign ups under the ACA, as the White House had hoped for, another 1.8 million people would need to enroll by the end of the month.

As The Associated Press reports:

"That's way above the daily averages for January and February, which have ranged between 33,000 and 34,000. The math seems to be going against the administration.

"Officials expect the pace to pick up. The big question is whether it will be enough to make up for the technical troubles that paralyzed HealthCare.gov much of last fall and the continuing challenges for several state-sponsored websites."

CNBC says:

"The new data reveals a significant fall-off from January, when about 1.1 million people enrolled during the month.

"Another highlight—or lowlight—of Tuesday's enrollment report was the disclosure that the percentage of young adults signing up for Obamacare had remained at 27 percent of total sign-ups in the past two months. That's well below the 40 percent level some health-care experts have said would ensure that premiums paid to insurance companies would more than offset benefits paid out to older, sicker enrollees."

But CNBC quotes Timothy Jost, a law professor and health-care reform expert at Washington and Lee University, as saying that the 6 million goal is still possible.

"There's every reason to believe that they're right, that sign-ups are going to shoot up in March, and that they'll get to 6 million," Jost said.

However, 6 million is less than the original target of 7 million enrollments by the end of March.

The number of enrollees is just part of the overall equation – the mix is just as important. The administration wants to get enough young, relatively healthy people to enroll to offset the costs of the older, less healthy ones.

According to the report on Tuesday, cumulatively 30 percent of those who have signed up are between 55-64 years of age — the single largest group.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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