Despite initial glitches that stopped many people from signing up for health insurance through the federal exchange, 158,030 Floridians have enrolled, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday.

Those sign-ups — as of the end of last month — represent fewer than 5 percent of the 3.5 million Floridians who don’t have insurance. But Sebelius called it “a good trend.”

Of those who signed up in December in Florida, 83 percent qualified for subsidies to help bring down the cost of insurance, representatives from the health secretary’s office said.

“I’m pushing this because a lot of people know something about the law but have no idea if they will qualify for financial help,” she said. “They figure health insurance would be nice but think it’s totally unaffordable.”

Florida is leading the nation’s sign-ups. Of those who have signed up through the federal exchange, one in eight has been from Florida, Sebelius said. Of those, one-fourth were younger than 34. Signing up younger Americans is crucial to the success of the marketplace.

Not everyone, however, is thrilled with the numbers.

“These enrollment numbers show that neither enough total people nor enough young people are signing up for Obamacare, and it’s increasing the risk to taxpayers of bailing out health-insurance companies,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Worried that taxpayers would get stuck with a large bill if the system failed, Rubio introduced a bill to Congress last year that would repeal the portion of the health-care law that allows taxpayer bailouts of insurance companies.

Nationwide, nearly 2.2 million Americans had selected a marketplace plan on either a state or federal exchange from Oct. 1, when the marketplace opened with a rocky start, to Dec. 28. The Congressional Budget Office projected 7 million as the enrollment figure for the first year.

With 10 weeks to go, reaching that number will be a stretch, but Sebelius remains optimistic.

“We are eager to ramp those numbers up,” Sebelius told the Orlando Sentinel after bad weather in the nation’s capital forced her to cancel a visit to the Apopka Family Health Clinic.

Weather forces Kathleen Sebelius to cancel Apopka visit – Orlando Sentinel.

Florida’s Obamacare sign-ups ‘a good trend,’ HHS chief Kathleen Sebelius says – Orlando Sentinel
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