Despite last-minute pushes to get uninsured Americans signed up for government-sponsored health care, the numbers are still lagging far behind projected goals, according to the latest Department of Health and Human Services report.
HHS reported Tuesday that total enrollment is up to about 4.2 million people, with 940,000 having signed up in a final February push, Fox News reports.
The administration’s unofficial goal was 7 million by March 31, the end of open enrollment.
The Obama administration has been plugging HealthCare.gov any way it can, particularly among the young adult population, with the man himself appearing on YouTube with comedian Zach Galifianakis.
"During this final month of open enrollment, our message to the American people is this: you still have time to get covered, but you'll want to sign up today," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement on Tuesday.
The enrollment shortfall added more fuel to the fire of Affordable Care Act critics.
“Given these dismal enrollment numbers, the president needs to work with Congress to get rid of this year's individual mandate penalty," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
"It seems the president's push to enroll young adults is far too little, too late," Buck said. "The administration won't tell us how many people have actually paid for a plan or how many were previously uninsured. But what we do know is that young adults — those who the White House repeatedly said are critical — are deciding the health care law is a bad deal. Now, millions stand to be forced to pay a new tax because of this law."
There is still a chance that enrollment could surge before the March 31 deadline. After that, uninsured Americans will be subject to a penalty.
Meanwhile, the HHS is hoping that the lull is due the younger population’s tendency to procrastinate.
“We learned from Massachusetts’ experience that young adults tend to sign up later in the process,” Sebelius said, referring to the 2006 implementation of a Massachusetts state law that required individuals to buy insurance.
Young people are considered critical to the ACA’s success because their medical costs are generally low, helping to buffer the higher costs of medical care for the country’s aging population. So far, one in four enrollees is under 34 — still below the original target of 40 percent.