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More than 2 million people signed up for Obamacare, says White House

The Obama administration announced more than 2 million people have enrolled in health insurance plans through the federal and state-run exchanges. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

More than 2 million people have enrolled for health insurance through the federal and state health exchanges, Obama administration officials said Tuesday.

While considerably short of the 3.3 million enrollees the Obama administration was hoping for by now, the number is a dramatic improvement from the early weeks of the program when barely 150,000 signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov because of a series of technical problems. 

“Tomorrow is New Year’s Day and is a new day in health care for millions of Americans,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in a teleconference on Tuesday afternoon, calling the bill’s progress “transformational.”

More than 2.1 million people have enrolled in private insurance plans the marketplace, she said. An additional 3.9 million Americans were found eligible for coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in October and November, with that figure including some renewals and new eligibility.

Those figures do not include 3 million young Americans in their 20s currently enrolled on their parent’s health insurance.

White House adviser Phil Schiliro said Tuesday morning on MSNBC that the administration was “excited, but vigilant” for the health care rollout ahead of Wednesday's launch, when the newly insured are supposed to begin receiving benefits. 

Schiliro praised the recent increase in enrollment and denied that administration’s goal was to enroll seven million people by March, saying that figure was put out by the Congressional Budget Office, not the White House. People have until March 31 to sign up for coverage in 2014. 

“There’s no magic to the seven million,” he said. “What there is magic to is that in the month of December, one million Americans signed up for insurance, not because they had to, they didn’t face a penalty if they didn’t. They wanted insurance on Jan. 1.”

Schiliro’s attempt to distance the administration from the enrollment figure comes two months after Secretary Sebelius cited it to NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman

“Well I think success looks like at least seven million people having signed up by the end of March 2014,” she said in September.

Is the White House confident those who've enrolled for health insurance on Healthcare.gov will be successful in going to the doctor starting Jan. 1, 2014? Phil Schiliro, White House adviser for health policy, joins MSNBC to discuss.

During the teleconference Tuesday, Sebelius also said that major pharmacies CVS and Walgreens announced they would provide short-term transitional coverage for patients who show that they are enrolled in a plan through the marketplace.

“That will really eliminate a lot of confusion,” Schiliro added.

When asked how large of a percentage of the enrollment applications were flawed, Schiliro said he could not give an estimated percentage on the error rate but that steps had been taken to notify those affected.

“The population that people have been concerned about have all been contacted, they been contacted by the federal government…by the insurers, in some cases two or three times,” he said. “So we’ve done everything we can to let people know that there could be a problem and we’re working with the insurers to make sure we can smooth out those difficulties tomorrow.”

Both Sebeliuis and Schiliro highlighted on Tuesday the new opportunities for Americans with pre-existing conditions to now attain health care.

“Starting tomorrow being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition,” Sebelius said.

“It’s the last day a cancer patient can be told by their insurance company that cancer treatments aren’t covered and it’s the last day people can face limits on their coverage in the future,” Schiliro told MSNBC. “That’s just enormous.”

Aside from working towards a smooth transition on Jan. 1, the administration said it would continue to work to ensure any American who wants to enroll is able to do so by March 31.

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