Obamacare's second round attracts more Americans

What Obamacare means for your taxes
What Obamacare means for your taxes

What a difference a year makes.

Obamacare's second enrollment period, which ended in February for most Americans, went far more smoothly than the first, which was marred by technical trouble at the kickoff.

Nearly 11.7 million people have signed up for health insurance for 2015 through the Obamacare exchanges, federal officials said Tuesday. Some 8.8 million picked plans on the federal exchange, which is handling enrollment for 37 states, while the remaining 2.8 million went through their state-based exchange.

Administration officials touted the fact that the number of Americans lacking insurance fell to record low levels, as measured by the Gallup poll. Only 12.3% were uninsured for the first two months of 2015, compared to 17.1% in the first quarter of last year.

It remains to be seen, however, how many people actually complete their Obamacare enrollment by making their first month's payment. Officials said they'd release 2015 enrollment information later this spring.

A year ago, some 8.1 million people had signed up for Obamacare plans by the end of the initial open enrollment period, officials said at the time. About 6.7 million people were ultimately enrolled in Obamacare plans, the administration said in the fall.

Still, it's likely the Obama administration will reach its goal of 9.1 million enrollees for 2015.

Related: Obamacare will cost less than thought

Obamacare attracted millions of new customers this year. Some 4.7 million people, or 53%, were new enrollees.

Among those who had coverage last year, just over half actively chose a plan, as federal officials suggested. The rest were automatically re-enrolled. Officials pushed 2014 enrollees to investigate their options since many more insurers joined the exchanges this year, changing the pricing for most plans.

For those signing up on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, some 87% received federal subsidies to help them afford the monthly premiums. The subsidies totaled $263 a month, on average, leaving consumers to pay $101.

These subsidies are at the heart of the next battle for the administration. The Supreme Court is currently deciding whether those signing up on the federal exchange are eligible for subsidies. The section of the health reform law governing subsidies refers to exchanges set up by states.

Related: What could kill Obamacare

The breakdown of those picking plans for 2015 closely mirrors last year's. About 28% of consumers in both years were age 18 to 34, while 11% were Latinos. Obamacare attracted somewhat fewer blacks, with 14% signing up this year, versus 17% last year, though administration officials said fewer people indicated their race on the application.

Open enrollment is now closed for most Americans, except for those who learn they owe a penalty for being uninsured in 2014. They can enroll for 2015 coverage between March 15 and April 30, thus avoiding a penalty for this year.

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