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POLITICS: PennAve

Kathleen Sebelius: Insurers say 80 to 90 percent have paid Obamacare premium

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said 80 to 90 percent of Obamacare enrollees had paid their first month premiums, according to some insurers.

In an interview on Oklahoma City's News9 Now earlier Monday, Sebelius dismissed suggestions that the figure was low, as some critics have suggested.

“The customers pay their companies. This is private insurance in the private market tell us that for their initial customers it’s somewhere between 80 and 85 — some say as high as 90 percent — have paid so far,” said Sebelius.

“Lots of companies have different timetables for when their new customers have to send their first payment,” she added.

The Obama administration is rushing to sign up more consumers on the last day of open enrollment for the health law's state and federal exchanges.

At last count, 6 million consumers have signed up, but the administration has sidestepped questions about the exact number who have paid their first month's premium. Enrollees are not covered until they make that first payment.

The final day of enrollment has also been plagued with technical glitches which crashed the website for hours early Monday and later prevented new applicants from registering. The administration, though, on Monday afternoon said the website's issues had been resolved and encouraged consumers to try to register for health care.

“What we’ve seen is an incredible surge of interest. We’ve had a million and a half visitors just in the last two days to the website and over 500,000 callers, so people are lined up in lines around the country,” said Sebelius on Monday.

“We want to make sure that people don’t lose their opportunity,” she added.

The administration has effectively extended its March 31 deadline, by allowing consumers who say they tried to enroll before the deadline but were unable to finish the process complete their applications at a later date.

Critics say the administration has unfairly extended the deadline to meet their own initial 7 million target and noted that there will be no efforts to verify late applications.

The administration is also behind its target for the young, healthy consumers needed to keep costs down. But Sebelius said sign-ups by young people “had soared” in recent months and were continuing during the last days of open enrollment.

“As the mom of two 30-somethings, I know that younger people are likely to be the last to enroll, and that’s exactly what we are seeing,” she said.

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