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Obamacare enrollment hits 3 million, government says

WASHINGTON  About three million people have enrolled in private health insurance plans through federal and state marketplaces since Oct. 1, a top U.S. official said on Friday.      

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a blog posting that the administration expects the number to grow in coming weeks as a public outreach campaign accelerates.      

The administration last reported 2.2 million enrollees in Obamacare plans through late December, indicating that about 800,000 more have signed up for coverage so far in January.
Before the botched Oct. 1 start of enrollment, the government had expected to enroll 3.3 million people in private coverage by the end of 2013.

 "I think that we're making significant progress but you won't hear anyone ... say that we're done with this effort," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done."

"We are seeing a website and marketplaces, federal marketplaces, functioning much more effectively," he continued, "and that's, believe me, a welcome development."

Meanwhile, top Republicans are saying they can no longer just be the party of "No" on Obamacare: They need to come up with an alternative health care policy.

While many Americans are skeptical of President Obama's health care overhaul, they also tell lawmakers they worry about keeping their costs from getting out of control. For those voters, a party that offers a platform to repeal the 2010 law without anything to replace it may not be very attractive.

As a result, lawmakers from both the establishment wing of the Republican Party and the more fiscally conservative small-government proponents in the tea party movement are exploring health care policies.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said it would be a major topic at a Republican retreat next week.

"We need to present the American people with a positive," said long-time Senator John McCain of Arizona, who in 2008 had a detailed healthcare reform plan as the Republican Party's presidential candidate against Democrat Obama.

"A number of people are working on it, and we've come up with the various provisions, and now hopefully we're going to put together a Republican package" on health care, McCain told Reuters outside the Senate last week.

Several bills have already been introduced by Republicans in the House and Senate but no single plan has yet emerged.

Some start with the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - a move that would almost certainly be vetoed by Obama if it passed both chambers, which is unlikely as long as Democrats hold the Senate. Some bills propose new tax credits or deductions to help people pay for health insurance.

Boehner, who has presided over dozens of House votes to limit or curtail Obamacare, said that at their annual retreat Jan. 29-31, House Republicans would discuss a plan to make health care insurance more accessible and affordable.
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