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HHS: More than 258,000 enrolled in Obamacare in November

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced that 258,497 Americans had signed up for coverage under Obamacare through the end of November -- bringing the two month total to nearly 365,000 -- and touted improvements to the healthcare.gov website that they said boosted numbers.

In a statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that November alone "added more than a quarter million enrollees" and that the number of consumers who enrolled through the federal insurance marketplace website is four times the October figure.

According to HHS, 364,682 have now signed up for insurance through Obamacare, with 137,204 through the federal exchange over the last two months and 227,478 cumulatively through state exchanges.

HHS said that, in addition, 1.9 million consumers had registered with the website but had yet to select coverage. HHS said another 803,077 were deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Through November, 39.1 million visits had been made to the state and federal Obamacare websites, with 5.2 million calls to phone banks.

In October, only 106,000 consumers signed up for insurance coverage, with only a quarter coming through the faulty healthcare.gov website.

“Evidence of the technical improvements to healthcare.gov can be seen in the enrollment numbers. More and more Americans are finding that quality, affordable coverage is within reach and that they'll no longer need to worry about barriers they may have faced in the past – like being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” said Sebelius in a statement announcing the new totals.

Sebelius urged consumers to sign up for insurance, saying “now is the time to visit healthcare.gov.”

The botched rollout of the website to register consumers in health insurance exchanges led to lower than expected initial enrollment figures in October, and threatened to unravel public support for President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

The administration found themselves on the defensive over the website woes and as millions began to receive cancellation notices from insurers for plans that no longer met Obamacare’s new regulations, despite the president’s repeated pledge that consumers could keep their coverage.

Obama apologized for the website glitches and cancellations and the administration launched a “tech surge,” with officials vowing that the website would be fixed for most consumers by the end of November.

Administration officials said they had met that goal and that most users now had a smooth experience on healthcare.gov.

Critics on Wednesday, though, noted that while the number of enrollees through the federal website had grown four-fold, the overall number of consumers who had signed up had only doubled, and questioned if the administration was on pace to meet its target of 7 million enrollees.

“Interest will continue to grow and enrollment will continue to rise,” Michael Hash, director of the HHS Office of Health Reform, told reporters on Tuesday, in a briefing on the figures. “We are on track.”

Julie Bataille, director of the CMS Office of Communications, told reporters that the enrollment numbers through November were “encouraging” but acknowledged that issues remained with the website.

Insurers have raised questions about back-end problems with 834 transmission forms they say are providing them with inaccurate or incomplete information on enrollees, which could delay many Americans from receiving their coverage.

The administration said that 1 in 4 enrollments was affected by technical bugs over the first two months and after working on the problem in December the error rate for 834 forms is now 1 in 10. CMS says it has a dedicated team working with insurers to quickly resolve those issues.

The administration is planning an aggressive campaign over the holiday season to boost enrollment ahead of the Dec. 23 deadline for coverage to kick in on Jan. 1.

The White House though faces an uphill climb to reach its enrollment figures, with polls showing that the rocky rollout has pulled Obama down to his lowest approval ratings. A record number of Americans in polls now question the president’s trustworthiness and opponents of the law are also launching a drive to convince consumers not to sign up.

White House correspondent Susan Crabtree contributed.

This story was published at 9 a.m. and has been updated.