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Obamacare enrollment expected to surpass 7.5 million

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the total number of Americans who signed up for health insurance under Obamacare is expected to surpass 7.5 million.
Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., March 27, 2014.
Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., March 27, 2014.

The Obama administration announced Thursday that 7.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance using the private exchanges -- and that number is expected to keep going up.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius revealed the updated numbers at a Senate Finance Committee hearing to discuss the budget, noting that the number could grow while people who began but did not complete enrollment before the March 31 deadline finish the process. 

“Last week we announced that 7.1 million Americans have signed up for private insurance through the marketplace. As of this week, 400,000 additional Americans have signed up and we expect that number to continue to grow,” Sebelius said, later adding that more than 2 million of those sign-ups occured in the final two weeks of enrollment.

The Congressional Budget Office originally projected 7 million people would sign up during the six-month open enrollment period, but it scaled back that prediction to 6 million following's highly troubled launch last fall. The CBO also predicted that 8 million more Americans will enroll in Medicaid this year.

A recent Gallup poll found the rate of Americans without insurance dipped to a five-year low in the first quarter of 2014. A RAND Corp. study released this week found 9.3 million people gained health insurance under the law.

While many Democrats and White House officials have highlighted the enrollment numbers going above projections, Republican critics have repeatedly pointed to the cases in which Americans had their plans canceled because they did not meet the minimum standards set by the Affordable Care Act. 

The RAND study noted that less than 1 million people who previously had individual market insurance became uninsured recently. “While we cannot tell if these people lost their insurance due to cancellation or because they simply felt the cost was too high, the overall number represents less than 1% of people between the ages of 18 and 64,” analysts wrote.

Sebelius also spoke about the millions of Americans who could become elligible for coverage under Medicaid if more states would accept the health reform law's Medicaid expansion. 

"Between October and the end of February, an additional 3 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid coverage," she said. "Now we know that if more states would move forward on Medicaid expansion more Americans would be able to get coverage."

Maine Gov. Paul LePage became the latest Republican governor to reject such an expansion this week, vetoing a bill that could have expanded Medicaid coverage to 70,000 Mainers, according to the Bangor Daily News.

A recent Kaiser analysis found that roughly 5 million low-income Americans could gain access to health care under Medicaid if the remaining two dozen states that have avoided expansion so far accepted it. Those Americans currently fall into what's known as the "coverage gap" with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for marketplace premium tax credits. In Texas more than 1 million people fall into that coverage gap. In Florida, that number is more than 750,000.