WASHINGTON — The latest Obamacare numbers show 3.3 million people enrolled nationwide — or about halfway to a 6 million target with a month and a half left in the 2014 enrollment period.
Of those, 123,681 came from Pennsylvania, a 34 percent increase in January compared to statewide enrollment from Oct. 1 through December. A faulty website made signing up nearly impossible for weeks after the Affordable Care Act launched. Now the site's working.
The mix of who's signing up remains a concern. Independent experts say ideally 40 percent should be from the healthier 18-34 age range. But only about one in four enrollees is from that group, seen as essential to offset the cost of older, sicker Americans.
Advocates for the law say the expectation is the "young invincibles" will wait until the last minute to sign up, so by the end of March that target might be reached.
For now, more than half enrolled are between the ages of 45 and 64. In Pennsylvania, 58 percent of enrollees are in that age bracket, and the assumption is the older the person, the more health issues there are, which could drive up costs.
After the law's tumultuous start made it nearly impossible for people to enroll in October and November, the latest enrollment numbers seem to put the program on a steadier pace. Just in January, 1.1 million people enrolled, which is slightly more than was projected for that month.
The Obama administration's original goal was to have 4.4 million people signed up by now, The New York Times reported, based on a memorandum prepared in September. The Congressional Budget Office originally projected that 7 million would sign up by March 31. Now it's saying 6 million.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday called the numbers "encouraging" and said "the covered population is getting younger."
The numbers HHS made public Wednesday leave some crucial information unanswered.
For one, the Obama administration could not say how many of the people enrolled were previously uninsured compared to how many were people changing insurance because their policies were canceled or they were looking for a better deal.
Also, the numbers reflect how many people picked a plan but not how many people have paid the premium to actually obtain the coverage.
Pennsylvania Insurance Secretary Michael Consedine brought up both issues in an interview after testifying Wednesday in the state Capitol. The Corbett administration has been critical of the federal health plan.
Consedine said he is hearing from insurance companies that many consumers enrolling through the federal exchange are not first-time buyers. Many had insurance previously and simply went to the federal exchange to compare prices.
"If the goal was to enroll the uninsured population, we still have a ways to go," he said.
Additionally, the state agency is starting to get complaints from insurance companies that newly enrolled customers are not making their policy payments, Consedine said.
The lack of payments could be caused by technological problems involving the enrollment data transfer from the federal government to insurance companies, he said. Or it could be from consumers' simply not paying because they don't understand that government subsidies don't cover the full amount of coverage, he said.
Either way, he said, it could signal a wave of possible cancellations.
Most Pennsylvanians enrolled — about four out of five — are receiving some government assistance to pay their monthly premiums. A majority has selected the silver level plan, considered mid-level, basic coverage.
Samuel R. Marshall, president and CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, said he had not heard from companies that consumers weren't paying their first month's premiums, but that didn't mean it might not be occurring.
Pennsylvania's largest insurance company, Highmark Inc., which offers Lehigh Valley coverage through its Blue Shield subsidiary, announced Wednesday it had 61,372 enrollments through the federal exchange in Pennsylvania as of Feb. 11.