There was a surge of enrollment ahead of the first Dec. 15 Obamacare deadline.  Although the enrollment period remains open through Jan. 31, 2016, individuals who signed up for insurance before the Dec. 15 deadline will have their health plans take effect Jan. 1. 

As of the deadline, more than _____ people signed up for 2016 Obamacare insurance plans sold on  Enrollment began Nov. 1  About __  million enrollees were new customers, as opposed to existing customers of, which serve people in 38 states, including Kansas, who are not operating their own Obamacare marketplaces.  For sign-ups to be considered official enrollments, customers must make their first month’s premium payment. 

While the deadline for coverage effective January was Dec. 15, open enrollment continues until Jan. 31. People who do not have some form of health coverage after that date are subject to a tax penalty, which in 2016 will be the greater of $695 per adult, or 2.5 percent of adjusted household income.

Nationally, about 11.7 million signed up for Obamacare coverage for 2015 during the previous open enrollment season, which ended early this year. The actual number of people who ended up paying their first premium was about 10.2 million. The enrollment tally has drifted down slightly since then.

Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, has said she expects about 10 million people to be enrolled in Obamacare plans by the end of 2016.

On Wednesday’s call with reporters, Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said “we believe that there’s evidence that consumers are making better choices this year, and they’re educated about their options” on the federal


He pointed to the fact that more than 2 million consumers on have used the site’s new search tools to look up whether certain doctors or prescription drugs are covered by health plans.

Slavitt also said that people who already had coverage from a plan this year “are clearly shopping to get the right plans.”

Kevin Counihan, CEO of  noted that the availability of subsidies means that 7 out of every 10 Obamacare customers can find plans with premiums of less than $75 per month.

While Counihan and other officials have noted that the subsidies can make health plans affordable to many people, he and Slavitt highlighted the Obamacare penalty for failing to have insurance.

And they noted that, unlike last year, the Obama administration does not plan to offer a special tax season grace period to enroll in coverage after Jan. 31. Such a grace period was granted during the last tax filing season because many people learned only then, after open enrollment had ended, how much their penalty would be for having not had health insurance in 2014. 

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