In First Week, More Than a Million Apply for Health Insurance on Federal Website

A year after the Obama administration temporarily shelved an unfinished part of intended for small businesses, it has opened with reports of only modest technical flaws — but with doubts that it will soon benefit the millions of workers at little companies with inadequate health insurance or none at all.

The applications showed that, the website for the federal insurance marketplace, was working. The federal marketplace was largely dysfunctional when it opened last fall. More than three times as many people selected health plans in one week this month as in all of October and November of last year.

“We are off to a solid start,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, said in a conference call with journalists on Wednesday. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do every day between now and Feb. 15,” when the three-month enrollment period ends.

In her remarks, Ms. Burwell delivered a progress report on use of the federal website, which serves 37 states. The numbers do not include activity in the 13 states that run their own insurance exchanges.

From Nov. 15 to 21, the administration said, 1,032,129 applications were submitted to the federal exchange, and 462,125 people chose plans offered for sale in the federal marketplace.

Some of the applications are from people who were uninsured. Some are from people who had coverage. All have taken affirmative steps to select insurance plans for 2015.

Of those selecting plans, 48 percent — about 222,000 people — are new to the federal marketplace or have had coverage that had been terminated for various reasons, such as failing to pay premiums. The other 52 percent — about 240,000 people — had coverage this year and signed up for insurance in 2015 with the same insurer or a different one.

People who already have marketplace coverage and take no action by Dec. 15 will be automatically enrolled in their existing plan or one like it effective Jan. 1. They can, if they choose, make a different selection by Feb. 15.

Ms. Burwell said the new figures showed only the number of people enrolled in medical plans and did not include people signing up for separate dental insurance. Congressional investigators discovered last week that the Obama administration had overstated enrollment in 2014 by including about 400,000 dental insurance policyholders in the total of 7.1 million with health insurance.

“The mistake we made is unacceptable,” Ms. Burwell said in a Twitter post last week.

Aaron Albright, a spokesman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that actual enrollment in the federal and state exchanges as of mid-October was 6.7 million. Ms. Burwell said Wednesday that the administration was sticking with its goal of 9.1 million people enrolled and paying premiums by the end of 2015.

In the first week of open enrollment this fall, the administration said, the call center received nearly 1.1 million telephone calls, with an average waiting time of about three minutes. The government counted 3.7 million users of But officials said that visitors to the site may have been counted more than once if they used different devices, like a laptop computer and a cellphone, on different occasions.

The administration reported that 96,000 people visited the Spanish-language version of in the first week, and the call center received 102,000 calls from people who chose to talk to a Spanish-speaking customer service representative. Nearly one-fourth of Hispanics are uninsured, according to the Census Bureau.

Kevin J. Counihan, the chief executive of the federal insurance marketplace, said the administration would work with three partners to help consumers understand how they can sign up for coverage under the health care law. He identified the groups as Westfield shopping centers, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the XO Group, a media company that caters to women who are engaged, newly married or pregnant.

One of the XO websites, The Bump, for first-time parents, includes a message from Michelle Obama promoting enrollment. “If you’re pregnant now and you get signed up by March 31st, when your baby is born, you’ll both be covered,” Mrs. Obama says.

Coverage, she says, is usually available for less than $100 a month. Researchers say the cost of maternity care, including an uncomplicated childbirth, can easily exceed $10,000.

Ms. Burwell said she planned to provide weekly snapshots of enrollment data, as well as monthly reports with more comprehensive information. That would be a noteworthy change from the practice of her predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, who did not provide current data and issued only monthly tabulations. On Wednesday at least, Ms. Burwell practiced what she has preached about transparency in government, providing detailed answers to questions about operation of the federal marketplace.

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