In a statement from the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama took a victory lap on the end of the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act.
It came on the same day that the White House announced that more than 7 million people had enrolled in insurance plans through Obamacare, surpassing the administration’s original goal despite a disastrous rollout of the law in October.
Noting the “lost weeks” that came with the rollout of the law, Obama announced that more than 7.1 million people had signed up.
“This law has made our health-care system a lot better,” Obama said.
“In these first six months, we’ve taken a big step forward,” he said. “Under this law, the share of Americans with insurance is up and the growth of health-care costs is down.”
Obama didn’t hold back against those he perceived as reactionary critics of the law. He ratcheted up his rhetoric against Republicans he said were trying to dismantle the law, quipping that there are “still no death panels.”
“Armageddon has not arrived!” he said.
He had a message for the press, saying he could “guarantee” there would still be some unforeseen problems and glitches to come.
“There will be days when the website stumbles,” Obama said. “It’s going happen, and it won’t be news.”
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, noted the president’s “victory lap” but said despite the enrollment figures, the law “continues to harm the American people.”
“Every promise the President made has been broken — health-care costs are rising, not falling,” Steel said. “Americans are losing the doctors and plans that they like, especially seniors suffering under President Obama’s Medicare cuts. Small businesses are afraid to hire new workers, hobbling our economic growth.
“That’s why we must replace this fundamentally flawed law with patient-centered solutions that will actually lower health-care costs and help create jobs,” Steel said.
The Congressional Budget Office initially projected last May that enrollment in the taxpayer-subsidized private exchanges would be 7 million. They revised that number in February amid still-lagging numbers from the law’s rollout.
Even at the end of February, it seemed unlikely the Obama administration would even hit the revised target of 6 million. By then, only 4.2 million people had signed up for insurance through the exchanges, and momentum appeared to be weakening.
One Democratic strategist compared last month’s rush to doing taxes right before the deadline. Monday — deadline day — was a record-breaking day for HealthCare.gov, which saw more than 3 million visits as of 8 p.m.
More than 1 million calls were placed into the call center of the health-insurance marketplace as of 8 p.m., also a record.
There are a few big caveats with any topline numbers — the Obama administration hasn’t said how many people who signed up on the exchanges have paid their first month’s premiums.
It’s also not known how many people who signed up through the exchanges were previously uninsured, although The Los Angeles Times reported that through the marketplaces, other forms of private insurance, and through the law’s expansion of Medicaid more than 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage.
The final demographics of those who signed up will be important. Getting young people and healthy people to sign up is crucial to the success of the law, as their inclusion will help subsidise older and sicker enrollees.
As of January, only 25% of the total sign-ups were between the ages of 18 and 34. The Obama administration had hoped that number would be about 40%.
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