7.3 Million People Have Obamacare Coverage

The new total includes people who have purchased insurance since April.

Roughly 7.3 million people are currently enrolled in private insurance through Obamacare, a top health official said Thursday.

When the law's first open-enrollment period closed this spring, 8.1 million people had selected plans through the new marketplaces. But some people did not go on to actually purchase those plans, and others let their coverage lapse or simply didn't need it any more.

Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, announced the new total, which is current as of Aug. 15, at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Thursday.

The 7.3 million figure isn't cumulative -- it represents a "snapshot in time," HHS said. It includes people who signed up during open enrollment and are still paying their premiums, as well as people who have come into the system since then. HHS didn't say how many people fall into each category.

"Eight million individuals had signed up. During the course of the next several months, individuals might have gotten employer insurance, might have become eligible for Medicaid instead of the exchanges, and some may not have paid premiums," Tavenner said.

Tavenner said CMS does not know how many people signed up but failed pay their premiums, and likely will not know until the end of the year.

A certain degree of "churn" was always expected within the exchanges: People would cycle out when, for example, they get jobs that offer health insurance, and others would cycle in due to life changes that made them eligible to sign up for coverage outside the open-enrollment window.

"I think 7.3 million is a really strong number," Tavenner said.

The number could drop again at the end of the month, when individuals who have not verified their citizenship or immigration status will lose their coverage. CMS said this week that there are currently 115,000 individuals whose discrepancies in records of legal status have not been resolved.

Tavenner's update indicates that more people have dropped out than have jumped in. But the updated enrollment figures still beat the Congressional Budget Office's expectations. CBO estimated that the exchanges would cover about 6 million people this year, after accounting for churn.

-- This story has been updated.