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House panel subpoenas administration on Obamacare enrollment

The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, widely refe
The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, widely refe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A House of Representatives oversight panel subpoenaed the Obama administration on Tuesday for internal reports showing the number of people who have enrolled in health coverage through new online insurance marketplaces in all 50 states.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp said the subpoena was necessary to learn how many people must enroll by the end of December to ensure that those who want benefits are able to obtain them by January 1. That is when coverage is scheduled to begin under the healthcare reform law known as Obamacare.

"Actual enrollment could lag projections by over 1 million people," Camp said in the letter to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "There is no evidence this system is capable of handling this type of volume."

Camp said status reports on enrollment had been made available to top officials including Tavenner and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. But he complained the administration had refused to share them with congressional investigators. Tavenner told a Senate oversight panel earlier on Tuesday that the administration would release enrollment figures for October next week.

The administration and 14 states have built online marketplaces or exchanges that offer private coverage to millions of uninsured people, often at federally subsidized prices. Some exchanges have had a rocky start, particularly the federal web portal, HealthCare.gov, which administration officials acknowledge has been able to enroll only a small number of people since October 1 because of technical problems.

Camp said internal administration memos projected 494,620 enrollees for the month of October and 706,600 for November, but that the actual number could be lower than 100,000 for last month. Tavenner told the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee that the administration had expected 800,000 enrollees in the federal exchange alone by the end of November.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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