Three million people have enrolled in private health plans offered through the Obamacare insurance exchanges, U.S. officials said.

The tally reflects 800,000 new sign ups so far in January, adding to the 2.2 million who enrolled from Oct. 1 through December, according to comments today by U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a speech in Jacksonville, Fla. A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, Jason Young, confirmed the figure.

The acceleration may indicate increased familiarity and interest in the Affordable Care Act among people who had previously only heard of its problems and political disputes, said Ron Pollack, the executive director of the consumer-advocacy group Families USA. Public opinion about the ACA had plunged in November after the Oct. 1 debut of the insurance marketplaces greeted consumers with website breakdowns, higher prices and potentially broken promises.

“People were bombarded about the politics and learned precious little about how it would affect their lives,” Pollack, whose Washington-based organization has been promoting the health law, said in a telephone interview. “I think you’re seeing a significant acceleration that is just going to be larger and larger as we move toward the end of March.”

The Obama administration had a goal of signing up about 7 million by the end of March, the close of the first enrollment period of the insurance exchanges.

The three million sign-ups reflect the number of people who selected a plan using federal and state enrollment systems. People must pay their first month’s premium to complete their enrollment, and it’s unclear what fraction of enrollees haven’t yet paid.

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