How many Americans have signed up for Obamacare?

While over 8 million people have visited the website, the White House is not ready to say how many have successfully chosen a health insurance plan.
CBS News

(CBS News) A new poll by The Wall Street Journal shows more Americans think the president's health care law is a good idea. Last month, 31 percent said they liked it; now it's 38 percent. The health care exchanges went online on October 1 with long delays when millions of Americans tried to shop the federal website. But how many are actually buying policies?

More than 8 million people have visited the website designed for consumers in 36 states to buy health insurance. But the White House is not ready to say how many have successfully chosen a health plan until next month.

"We'll have a monthly release of numbers," said David Simas, the White House senior advisor on healthcare. "At some point in November, you'll be able to see and go through the data (and see) how many people enrolled and break it out however you'd like."

Health care consultant Bob Laszewski says plan insurers he has heard from report enrollment is low. The administration hoped 7 million would choose a policy by the end of the year. But he said some major companies have told him their enrollment numbers are in the hundreds.

"That says to me is Obamacare hasn't been launched," says Laszewski. "People are talking about glitches with system problems and that sort of thing. That's as far from reality as it can be. This program has not even gotten off the ground yet."

Several major insurance carriers contacted by CBS News either declined to provide statistics or did not return calls.

The White House referred us to an executive from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida. Chairman and CEO Patrick Geraghty said his company has seen "tremendous interest," but it does "need to see improvement in the numbers" to reach its goal to enroll 75,000. Geraghty's expectation is "the process gets better every day."

However, emails we have seen written by insurance executives describe enrollment numbers as "ugly." One said politicians and others have their "heads in the sand."

"This program doesn't work if we don't get the healthy people to sign up to get enough premium into the program to work," says Laszewski. "It's not going to work for insurance companies, and it's certainly not going to work for the Obama administration."

For many of these plans, consumers don't need to pay premiums until the end of the year. The administration said that allows people to switch plans and that could skew the numbers. Most of the people we spoke to say it's too early in the process.