Just two weeks into Obamacare's second open-enrollment period, more than 765,000 people have selected insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, the Health and Human Services Department said Wednesday.
That total is split about evenly between people signing up for the first time and people who were already enrolled. It only covers the 35 states that are relying on HealthCare.gov for enrollment because they did not establish their own exchanges.
It's a pretty good start for this year's open-enrollment period, which poses the dual challenges of bringing new consumers into the insurance market while keeping last year's enrollees covered—and happy.
HHS has signed up roughly 367,000 new customers in the two weeks since the enrollment began, putting it on track to end up with nearly 2.5 million total sign-ups even without any deadline-driven enrollment surges.
The number of returning customers is also an encouraging sign for the Obama administration. Although people who enrolled in coverage last year can automatically renew their plans for a second year, auto-renewal carries an especially high risk of major premium increases.
The administration and its allies have encouraged existing enrollees to return to HealthCare.gov and shop for a better deal—and in many cases, consumers who are willing to switch plans can avoid any increase in their premium payments.
The 765,000 people who have selected a plan through the exchanges are not truly covered until they make their first premium payment, so the number of people actually enrolled in coverage will be somewhat smaller. So far, about 80 to 90 percent of people who picked a plan have gone on to pay their premiums and "effectuate" their coverage.
The department has said its target is for the exchanges to cover 9 to 10 million people in 2015, including new enrollees and renewals from the roughly 7 million people currently covered.