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Both Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Secretary of Human and Health Services Kathleen Sebelius told congressional panels last week that early enrollment numbers were expected to be low. But this is really low.

Fewer than 50,000 people signed up for health insurance through through the first week of November, The Wall Street Journal reports.

That number is 90% lower than the 500,000 sign-ups the Obama administration expected in the first month alone. The Journal reports that between 40,000 and 50,000 people have successfully navigated the broken website to purchase private insurance.

The administration had estimated that nearly 500,000 people would enroll in October, according to internal memos cited last week by Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.). An estimated seven million were expected to gain private coverage by the end of March, when the open-enrollment period is set to end.

The federal health official directly responsible for the online marketplace, Marilyn Tavenner, told a congressional panel last week that the Department of Health and Human Services would release enrollment figures this week.

The administration thus far has said only that about 700,000 people had completed applications in all 50 states, in an Oct. 24 disclosure. Some states are running their own enrollment websites and have generally seen smoother launches.

Ms. Tavenner, who runs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and her boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, both have told Congress that the initial numbers would be low.

So far, private health plans have received enrollment data for 40,000 to 50,000 users of the federal marketplace, the people familiar with the figures said. The federal marketplace uses an industry-standard format to exchange enrollment information, known as an 834 transmission.

Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt said Monday she couldn’t confirm the enrollment numbers. She added, “We have always anticipated that initial enrollment numbers would be low and increase over time.”

In some cases, insurers have reported duplicated 834s and other data-integrity problems, but the people familiar with the matter said they believed these figures reflected an accurate count of enrollments through late last week.

According to the Journal..Administration officials declined comment.

The Obama administration is due to release national enrollment numbers sometime this week. If the released numbers are the same as reported today by the WSJ, “ouch” that’s going to hurt.

UPDATE: It looks as though when the White House does release numbers, they will be on the bogus side:

Health insurance plans only count subscribers as enrolled in a
health plan once they’ve submited a payment. That is when the carrier
sends out a member card and begins paying doctor bills.

When the
Obama administration releases health law enrollment figures later this
week, though, it will use a more expansive definition. It will count
people who have purchased a plan as well as those who have a plan
sitting in their online shopping cart but have not yet paid.

the data that will be released this week, ‘enrollment’ will measure
people who have filled out an application and selected a qualified
health plan in the marketplace,” said an administration official, who
requested anonymity to frankly describe the methodology.

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