President Obama today basked in the glow of “7.1 million” – the number of Americans the White House said had signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, what the president embraced yet again as “Obamacare.”
“Despite several lost weeks out of the gate because of the website, 7.1 million Americans have signed up,” Obama said to applause in what resembled a late-afternoon pep rally in the Rose Garden.
“The debate over repealing this law is over,” the president added. “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
Hours earlier, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that by the midnight deadline 7,041,000 Americans had enrolled on the federal and state-run insurance marketplaces that are part of Obamacare.
“Today, we can say definitely that at midnight last night…I think it’s fair to say we surpassed everyone’s expectations, at least everyone in this room,” Carney told reporters.
Neither Obama nor Carney said how many of the enrollees had paid their first month’s premiums or disclosed any demographics. In its enrollment reports, the administration has identified enrollees as Americans who have selected plans from state or federally run insurance marketplace websites, such as HealthCare.gov, but has not disclosed how many of those individuals paid initial premiums.
The Guardian’s Jason Kasperkevic pointed out in a recent column that there is a crucial difference in being enrolled in Obamacare and having health coverage. Americans who enroll in a health plan through Obamacare still must separately contact their insurer and pay for their coverage, he noted.
In an interview yesterday with Oklahoma City News 9, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that 80 percent to 90 percent of enrollees have paid their first month’s premium. She based that on information from private insurers participating in Obamacare’s marketplace.
Early last month, Sebelius testified repeatedly at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing that she did not know how many people who enrolled in Obamacare health plans actually had paid their premiums.
Obama did not mention Sebelius. At one point this afternoon, though, he took several swipes at congressional Republicans, who all voted against the health care law — and especially conservatives “who have based their entire political agenda on repealing it.” He lauded Democratic leaders such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who pushed the legislation through and lost the House speakership when Republicans took over in the post-Obamacare elections of 2010:
We could not have done it without them, and they should be proud of what they’ve done.”
One reason for the Obama administration’s celebration: It had backed away from an early goal of enrolling 7 million Americans, an initial estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. CBO later lowered the expected 2014 open enrollment from 7 million to 6 million in its budget and economic outlook, blaming HealthCare.gov’s disastrous launch as a main culprit.
Although the White House and Obamacare supporters already deem the first open enrollment a success, not everyone is jumping on board to buy health insurance:
- San Jose KPIX 5 reported that some Bay area residents in California refused to buy insurance because the options under Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, were too expensive.
- Amber Mezzacappa, of Copperas Cove, Texas, also declined to sign up because of cost, News Channel 25 KXXV-TV reported.
- Janet Glasser, of Johnstown, N.Y., said not buying an Obamacare plan “is the only way to show my disapproval,” according to the Albany Times Union.
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.