A big jump was expected after Thanksgiving, since Dec. 15 is the last day people can sign up so their coverage will take effect Jan. 1. Starting in the new year, the health care law requires virtually all Americans to have insurance or face fines. At the same time, insurance companies will be forbidden from turning away people in poor health.
The memo projected enrollment would reach 3.3 million nationally by Dec. 31.
Signups were expected to spike again in March, as procrastinators noticed the approaching end of open enrollment season. "We anticipate a surge of enrollment in December and March," the memo said.
By the end of March, total enrollment through the markets was expected to surpass 7 million, an estimate originally from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and then used by the administration as the foundation for its projections.
With 15 days to go this month, the Obama administration has not released any enrollment numbers for the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead in running the markets.
The 14 states running their own markets, along with Washington, D.C., have released some data. But it's hard to discern a clear pattern, since the reporting dates are different from state to state.
California reported 16,300 applications processed as of Oct. 5. The memo projects 91,000 people will enroll in the state by the end of the month.
Kentucky reported 18,351 applications processed as of Oct. 9. That would exceed the memo's projection of 15,400 for the month.
Washington state reported 24,949 applications processed as of Oct 14, a little more than the memo's October projection of 23,800.
Maryland reported 566 applications processed as of Oct. 6, compared with 10,500 projected for the month by the memo.
Like all projections, the HHS estimates come with a caveat: They represent an educated guess, and reality could turn out differently. They were arrived at by taking the congressional estimate, breaking it down by state, and then applying an expected monthly signup rate.