Copy of 12.7 million Americans sign up for Affordable Care Act 3.0

Sign ups exceeded administration's initial estimates of 10 million


Some 12.7 million Americans signed up for the Affordable Care Act for 2016, according to new figures released Thursday.

Sign ups exceeded the Obama administration's initial estimates of 10 million, though that figure was widely seen as too modest.

"The marketplace is growing and getting stronger and the ACA [Affordable Care Act] has become a crucial part of healthcare in America," said Health Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

Open enrollment ended Jan. 31, and the administration has cracked down on who can sign up for coverage the rest of this year after insurers complained that consumers were enrolling only after they got sick. Traditionally, only those with a major life event -- such as job loss, marriage, divorce or the birth of a child --- can obtain insurance after open enrollment ends.

The administration faced more of an uphill battle to reach those who have remained uninsured at the start of the third year of the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Many of those who want or need insurance already obtained coverage through the exchanges over the past two years.

Still, fewer Americans are projected to sign up for individual coverage on the exchanges in near future. The Congressional Budget Office lowered its estimate to 13 million enrollees for 2016, down from earlier projections of 21 million, according to its latest economic outlook.

More than 9.6 million people signed up via the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, which covers enrollment in 38 states. More than 4 million were new consumers.

Another 3.1 million selected plans through the exchanges in states that run their own programs.

"Open enrollment 3 was very successful," said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which run the Affordable Care Act.