The Health and Human Services Department is estimating that somewhere between 9 million and 9.9 million Americans will be enrolled in health coverage through the Obamacare marketplaces in 2015, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Monday.
More specifically, the department is aiming for 9.1 million enrollees next year, Burwell said at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
There are currently 7.1 million Americans enrolled in private health plans through the new state-based marketplaces, and HHS expects about 83 percent of those people to re-enroll when open enrollment begins this Saturday. The rest of the 9.1 million enrollees would be new customers.
Earlier in the year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million people would obtain coverage through the marketplaces next year. Burwell acknowledged that her agency's estimates fall short of that. However, she pointed out that should enrollment reach 9.9 million, that would be a 28 percent increase in the marketplace.
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Last year, the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov was plagued by serious technical problems at its launch, but Burwell insisted Monday that HHS is better prepared for the open enrollment season this year. For instance, while HHS spent 10 days last year testing its website prior to open enrollment, it's spending five weeks on testing this year. Additionally, HHS has ratcheted up its focus on security, working with other government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security.
Burwell also promised a better consumer experience this year, claiming the website is "simpler, faster and more intuitive." For those coming back to the website, for instance, 90 percent of the information needed will be pre-populated. New consumers will have a much shorter application to fill out, while others should be able to access the site through mobile applications.
Enrolling people could be challenging this year, Burwell said, in part because this year's potential customers are likely less eager to enroll than those who signed up last year. Additionally, open enrollment runs just three months, compared with six months last year.
"We do have a shorter period of time and we are moving to a group of folks who may be harder to reach," she said.