"It is running right now," she said. "Every day, people are coming through; every day people are getting enrolled."
She said customers who are not eligible for Medicaid or a tax subsidy could browse for plans on the website but then sign up directly with the insurer they choose.
Highmark officials stressed the importance of getting the website to work.
"There is an urgent need to improve the functionality of the federal marketplace as soon as possible, to ensure that consumers have enough time to enroll," Highmark said Wednesday in a news release.
Of the people who have applied in West Virginia, 4,371 -- 61 percent -- have been found eligible for some sort of financial assistance, either through Medicaid, CHIP or tax subsidies.
That's on top of the 52,000 West Virginians who pre-qualified for the state's expanded Medicaid program, which was enlarged as part of the federal health-care reform package.
The deadline to sign up for insurance that would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, is Dec. 15. People have until the end of March to sign up for insurance for 2014 and avoid the penalty of $95, or 1 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater.
Sebelius and the HHS report pointed to enrollment numbers in Massachusetts, which enacted health-care reform in 2006, to try to put the sign-up numbers in a better light.
In its first month of open enrollment, Massachusetts had only 123 people sign up and pay for health plans, 0.3 percent of the final total. In contrast, Sebelius pointed to the 106,185 people who signed up in the first month of the Affordable Care Act as representing 1.5 percent of the final goal of 7 million enrollees.
One crucial difference is that the Massachusetts numbers included only people who had paid a first-month premium, while the ACA numbers include everyone who has completed an application and selected a plan, even if they have not yet paid.
Sebelius said some people might decide to switch plans between now and Dec. 15, when payment is due, so they would not release the number of paid enrollments until then.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act, called again Wednesday for delaying the law.
"Now is the time for people on both sides of the political spectrum to come together and delay this law," Morrisey said in a news release. "Our state and nation can ill afford to keep pursuing something that has proven, on so many fronts, to not work as the president has promised."
Staff writer Lori Kersey contributed to this report.
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.