New numbers show a lot more people signed up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act around the Delaware Valley than initially expected.

Signups spiked in the weeks, days and hours before the spring enrollment deadline. Take 61-year-old Wayne Lucas, a self-employed architect, who stopped by the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia in March for help enrolling at the last minute. Lucas described being in a bit of shock as he left the library with a plan costing him about $500 a month less than his current coverage.

"My monthly payment's going to be $32.50 for probably health insurance that's better than my current policy," Lucas said.

Lucas is one of about 318,000 Pennsylvanians who selected a private health plan since the launch of the marketplace in October. That's about 100,000 more than federal officials had initially aimed for in the state and about one-quarter of those eligible for marketplace coverage, according the Kaiser Family Foundation.

New Jersey signups totaled about 162,000, some 65,000 more than expected. Delaware, a much smaller state, had an additional 6,000 people select plans, bringing that state's total to about 14,000.

Jill Fredel of Delaware's Department of Health said the strong response shows how much people want and need health insurance. But signing up, she said, is just the first step.

"If all we did was sign people up for coverage, we will not have succeeded," said Fredel. "The important thing is to connect people to care."

Coverage for Lucas and other procrastinators kicks in May 1. Those who don't have insurance could now face fines. The next open enrollment period starts in November, but people who have lost a job, gotten a divorce or had another big life change may be eligible to sign up before then.