By Yasmeen Abutaleb
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly 11.7 million people have either signed up or re-enrolled for insurance coverage under the U.S. healthcare reform law, more than the 9.1 million predicted by the Obama administration,health officials said on Tuesday.
As of Feb. 22, about 8.8 million signed up in one of the 37 states that use online exchanges operated by the federal government and 2.85 million were in the 14 states, and Washington, D.C., that operate their own exchanges, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
The Democratic-backed Affordable Care Act, narrowly passed by Congress in 2010 over unified Republican opposition, aimed to help millions of Americans without health insurance obtain coverage. Conservatives criticize the law, commonly called Obamacare, as government overreach.
The online exchanges, or marketplaces, are geared toward those who do not receive insurance through their employer and provide tax subsidies on a sliding scale to make health coverage affordable for low-income people.
In the states that use the federal exchange, called healthcare.gov, 87 percent qualified for a tax credit averaging $263 per month, according to HHS. It said more than half of consumers in states using healthcare.gov bought a plan that cost $100 or less after tax credits.
Enrollment across the board has largely exceeded expectations, health officials said. The enrollment period for 2015 coverage opened on Nov. 15 and closed on Feb. 15.
President Barack Obama's healthcare policy has been challenged in the courts since the outset. In the latest case, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on March 4 and is expected to decide this year whether or not to throw out tax subsidies in states that do not operate their own marketplaces.
If the court rules against the Obama administration, up to 7.5 million people in at least 34 states would lose the tax subsidies, according to consulting firm Avalere Health.
More than 4.1 million people under 35 years old have purchased health insurance through state and federal exchanges, the HHS said Tuesday, about a third of enrollees.
(Editing by Grant McCool)