Obamacare sign-ups have reached a major milestone – surging past the 6 million mark this week with only two days left to enroll. President Obama’s signature health care law, formally called the Affordable Care Act, aims to make health coverage available to 50 million uninsured Americans.
According to a report from Reuters news service on March 27, the 6 million milestone – up by one million from just 10 days ago – gives the White House some “ammunition to counter Republican critics, who have described the program as an expensive flop in the build-up to midterm congressional campaigns in November, when Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is at stake.”
Given all of the technical glitches the government’s website HealthCare.gov has encountered, from not being able to handle the online traffic to the latest issue of its subsidy calculator giving incorrect results, the fact that millions have signed up is an impressive bounce back from a weak start.
A writer from Forbes however suggests that the numbers are not a tell-all. Writes Avik Roy, Forbes Staff:
But it sheds little light onto the two questions most analysts are focused on. First, how many of those signing up have paid their first month’s premium, thereby activating coverage? And second: How many of those with coverage were previously uninsured? At this point, we have no definitive answers.
After the disastrous roll-out last year, the Obama administration came down from their early expectation of 7 million enrollees by the first deadline – Monday March 31 – and shaved off a million, saying that their revised target number was 6 million.
“We are seeing near record numbers of consumers coming to check out their options and enroll in coverage,” Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a blog post on the US Department of Health and Human Services website.
Republicans have been quick to point out that the robust numbers are hiding, and in some cases covering up, some crucial details.
“Falling 1 million short of the proclaimed goal is nothing to celebrate — not to mention the White House still refuses to disclose the most important figure of who’s paid,” said Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “As the administration scrambles to conceal its incompetence, millions of Americans are now enduring canceled health plans, higher premiums and lost access to trusted doctors.”