WASHINGTON -- The underdog of government health care programs is emerging as a rare early success story of President Obama's technologically challenged health overhaul.
Often dismissed, Medicaid has signed up 444,000 people in 10 states in the six weeks since open enrollment began, according to Avalere Health, a market analysis firm that compiled data from those states. Twenty-five states are expanding their Medicaid programs, but data for all of them was not available.
Meanwhile, private plans offered through troublesome online markets are expected to have enrolled a much smaller number of people.
Around 50,000 people so far have successfully enrolled in a private health insurance plan via HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare federal website, according to the Wall Street Journal and CBS News' confirmation from industry analysts.
Combined with the reported enrollment data from state-run Obamacare marketplaces, the enrollment levels in the new health insurance programs appear, so far, to fall well below the Obama administration's expectations.
According to a September memo, the administration initially anticipated that nearly 500,000 people would sign up for a private insurance plan on the new marketplaces by the end of October, after one month of open enrollment. The open enrollment lasts through March, by which point the administration expected to have 7 million enrolled.
The Obama administration plans to release October enrollment statistics this week, but publicly available figures already provide a contrast between a robust start for Medicaid expansion and lukewarm early signups for new, government-subsidized private plans offered separately under the law.
"Medicaid is exceeding expectations in most places," said Dan Mendelson, Avalere's president. "It is definitely a bright picture in states that have chosen to expand."
A big reason for the disparity: In 36 states, the new private plans are being offered through a malfunctioning federal website that continues to confound potential customers. And state-run websites have not been uniformly glitch-free.
Mr. Obama's health care law melded two approaches to advance its goal of broader insurance coverage: Middle-class people with no access to job-based coverage are offered subsidized private plans, while low-income people are steered to an expanded version of Medicaid in states accepting it.
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