More than 281,000 Floridians have applied for health coverage on - FOX 35 News Orlando

More than 281,000 Floridians have applied for health coverage on

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By Associated Press -

WASHINGTON -- More than 281,000 Floridians have applied for health coverage on the federal web site and about 17,000 have selected a plan on the site, figures released Wednesday by the Obama administration show.

The figures cover the two months between Oct. 1, when the site began operating, through the end of November.

Nationally, nearly 3.7 million people applied for insurance on either the federal online exchange or a state-based exchange, and about 365,000 signed up for coverage, the figures show.

Florida's enrollment figures represent a small percentage of the roughly 2 million state residents believed to be eligible to get coverage through, created under the Affordable Care Act.

The federal exchange and the state-based exchanges operating elsewhere allow consumers to shop for health care coverage and find out if they qualify for federal subsidies.

Still, the Florida numbers mark a significant improvement from October, when about 124,000 Floridians applied for health coverage on the federal exchange and about 3,500 selected a plan.

The slow start was largely blamed on the serious technical glitches that affected the federal site, which serves 36 states, starting with its launch. Obama administration officials said most of those problems have been fixed.

"We invite those Americans whose experiences with that have been frustrating to them so far to come back and try again," said Michael Hash, director of health reform at the Health and Human Services Department, told reporters in a conference call. "The web site is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1."

Families and individuals have until March 31 to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act or face a fine. But if they want coverage beginning Jan. 1, they must choose a plan by Dec. 23.

Officials have said they always expected people would wait until closer to the March 31 deadline before purchasing a plan. That's been the case with past government programs, such as Medicare Part D.

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