Republicans hammered the White House on Wednesday for low October Obamacare enrollment, saying the paltry number of Americans who have bought insurance through the new health care exchanges demonstrates that the legislation, as a whole, has failed.
The Department of Health and Human Services released data showing that fewer than 27,000 signed up for an Affordable Care Act plan through the federal website Healthcare.gov between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2. Including those who signed up through state-based exchanges, just over 100,000 Americans have picked health plans through the program.
“This report is a symbol of the failure of the president’s health care law,” House Speaker John Boehner said of the newly-released numbers. “It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped.”
Related: 26,000 signed up through federal Obamacare website in first month, administration says
As lawmakers mull a legislative fix for insurance plan cancellations under the new law, Boehner said the data “underscore the urgent need for President Obama to allow people to keep the plans they have and like.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the numbers will be "cold comfort for the millions who've lost the coverage they liked and the millions more facing higher premiums. Only in Washington could placing an item in a virtual shopping cart -- without even buying it -- count as a sale. If private businesses used that standard, online retailers would be poised to announce their best earnings season in American history."
Opponents of the health care plan argue that the enrollment numbers show that problems with the law go well beyond technical problems with the website.
“While the Obama White House is sure to blame the poor enrollment numbers on the many unacceptable tech glitches that have frustrated Americans, I maintain that the larger reason ObamaCare has failed is because it was conceived based on a lie that Americans could keep their healthcare plans and has failed to address our number one healthcare problem in America: soaring costs,” said Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus in a statement. “Reasons one million and one million and one why the federal government should not be running our healthcare.”
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., accused the administration of providing muddled data that fails to give a full picture of who is signing up for ACA coverage and what kind of plans consumers are buying.
‘Even if this data was an accurate picture, the Administration would need to enroll 68,000 people per day to meet their year-end goal,” he said. “However, [HealthCare.gov] isn't even designed to handle that much traffic and is currently capable of only handling less than half that much.”
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the numbers "abysmal" and said the law is "deeply flawed and ultimately cannot be fixed."
Other GOP heavies took to Twitter to express their outrage.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who led the fight earlier this year to tie funding the federal government to a repeal of the health care law, compared the enrollment number to a single sporting event held in his home state: “106,185 people enrolled in Obamacare. 108,713 attended the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Cowboys Stadium,” he tweeted.
The administration had warned for weeks that the initial numbers would be relatively modest, saying that problems with the HealthCare.Gov website would further dampen the participation of consumers already likely to wait until later in the enrollment period to sign up. White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters shortly before the release of the data that “no one will be satisfied with the numbers because they will be below what we sought.”
Earlier, Carney argued that part of the reason for the low numbers would be that young and healthy people will shop around and delay their purchase of insurance until later in the enrollment period.
“It was always the case, even prior to the problems with the launch of the website, that enrollment in the first month would be low,” he said Tuesday, adding that “challenging” problems with HealthCare.Gov will make those numbers “even lower than expected.”
First published November 13 2013, 1:08 PM