Official says Obamacare on track to meet original goal
WASHINGTON (CNN) — After a surge of sign-ups on the last day for open enrollment, Obamacare is on track to hit the White House’s original target of 7 million people signing up, a senior administration official said Tuesday.
President Barack Obama will address the milestone with a statement from the Rose Garden at 4:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
On Monday, more than 4.8 million visits were made to HealthCare.gov and 2 million calls were made to the call center, the official said.
The administration is awaiting final numbers from the federal and state exchanges, the official said.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office originally projected the 7 million target, which was embraced by administration officials.
Monday’s crush of enrollees came despite a software bug early in the day that proved to be a fleeting reminder of the technical woes that plagued the system when it was rolled out.
“System isn’t available at the moment,” a message on HealthCare.gov said. “We’re currently performing maintenance.” But by 8 a.m. in Washington, the glitch had been resolved.
An official told CNN on Monday that the surge included a good percentage of young adults — a demographic whose inclusion among enrollees is considered key to controlling costs.
Consumers who attempted to sign up on Monday but who experienced technical problems in doing so will be given a few additional days to complete the process, the administration official said.
States running their own exchanges also cited a surge of interest. California’s exchange ran sluggishly on Monday, but consumers there were given a reprieve, too. Those who didn’t finish the process were given until April 15 to do so, Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said Monday.
But picking a plan isn’t the final step to full enrollment — forking over the money to pay for it is. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told an Oklahoma TV station on Monday that insurers were reporting that 80% to 90% had paid.
Obamacare’s primary goal is to reduce the ranks of the 45 million uninsured. It remains to be seen how that figure will be affected, though anecdotal evidence suggests many have enrolled. Until now, many Americans with pre-existing conditions had to pay sky-high prices for insurance, if they could get any at all. Often, insurers branded them “uninsurable.”
The Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed in 2010 without GOP support, is considered President Barack Obama’s signature domestic initiative.
The administration pulled out all the stops in the final weeks of the enrollment period.
Administration officials took to the radio airwaves by participating in 400 interviews, enlisted celebrities and athletes to promote the law, and engaged people on social media. And Obama’s interview on the online comedycast “Between Two Ferns” resulted in the so-called Zach Galifianakis effect, resulting in 33 million views of his mock interview with the comedian.
While the administration is touting the first enrollment period as a success, Americans are divided over how they view the law. Last month, 46% said they viewed the law unfavorably (down 4 points since January), and 38% said they viewed it favorably (up 4 points since January), according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
Those who held unfavorable views cited concerns about costs (23%), opposition to the individual mandate (17%), and concerns about government intrusion (10%).
Those with favorable views cited expanded access to health care and health insurance (61%), followed by the perception that it will control health care costs and make it more affordable (10%) and that it will be good for the country (7%).
The telephone survey of 1,504 adults was conducted March 11-17 and had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 points.
Prof. Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University, said he was not surprised at the last-minute rush to sign up. “I think the prayer of the conservatives that this would collapse just didn’t get answered,” he told CNN on Tuesday. “It fills a need.”
He predicted conservatives would chip away at whatever the number proves to be. “It’s all just, some people hate Obama and anything he does.”
This article was based on reporting by Jim Acosta in Washington and was written by Tom Watkins in Atlanta.