The initial enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, ended at midnight Monday night. It appears that the program is on track to achieve or surpass its original goal to provide coverage to 7 million Americans, according to administration officials. There was a surge in registration over the weekend with long lines at sign-up centers and millions of visitors to the national website.
Joanne Peters, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said that in addition to record traffic on the website, The Medicare & Medicaid phone center handled a record number of calls. Over four million people visited the national website Monday causing it to crash for a time.
The administration said that anyone who tried to sign up Monday but couldn’t, can still avoid the penalty if they sign up in the next two weeks. The White House said that anyone who was “in line” should not be turned away.
Republicans charged that the enrollment numbers were “cooked” saying that many of the reported enrollees have not paid. This was disputed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday. She cited insurance company estimates that say between 80 and 90 percent of those who have selected a plan under ObamaCare have completed the critical final step of making a first premium payment. It is likely that most of those who stood in line for hours to sign up will pay. Many are waiting for a paycheck.
After the worst rollout of a major program since the rollout of Medicare D under the Bush administration, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) downgraded the anticipated number of new enrollees from 7,000,000 to 6,000,000. Republicans and Fox News boldly predicted that hardly anyone would sign up. They said repeatedly that Obamacare was in a “death spiral.” Seven million is hardly a death spiral.
Republicans have doubled down on their vow to repeal ObamaCare even though repeal would mean 7,000,000 Americans would lose their insurance. Another 3-4 million, who received insurance under the expanded Medicare program, would also become uninsured again. If Republicans get their way, repeal would also mean that millions of young Americans, who can now stay on their parents’ plan until age 26 due to Obamacare, would also lose their insurance.
Tuesday morning, Congressman Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, released his latest iteration of the Ryan Budget, and it would repeal ObamaCare and toss millions into the ranks of the uninsured. Ryan’s repeal would also allow insurance companies to go back to their practice of denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. It would allow insurance companies to drop customers when they get sick, and it would eliminate drug coverage for seniors who were previously caught in a trap called the doughnut hole. Also, rebates would end for the 9 million people who received them from their insurance company.
Republicans believe that doing those things to Americans in order to help special interest groups, is their ticket to power. They are making repeal the only campaign issue this fall. Already, Republicans are running tens of millions of dollars in ads attacking ObamaCare and Democrats. These ads are largely funded by special interests like the Koch brothers and insurance companies.
Now that ObamaCare has met its expectations, despite the website, it is likely that ObamaCare will cease to be the news story it once was. Republicans will do everything in their power, however, to return the nation to the bad-old-days of abuse by health insurance companies.