White House Official Lowers Expectations for Exchange Enrollment
On Sunday, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said initial health insurance exchange enrollment numbers, which are expected to be released later this month, likely will not meet the Obama administration's expectations, but he expressed confidence that the administration would reach its overall enrollment goals, The Hill's "Briefing Room" reports (Balluck, "Briefing Room," The Hill, 11/3).
The comments came just a few days after the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed CMS documents that showed only six enrollments occurred on the day the federal insurance exchange website launched, with just 248 enrollments after 48 hours. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that seven million U.S. residents will sign up for coverage on the exchanges, or an average of 39,000 per day for the six months that people can purchase coverage (Sink, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 11/1).
During an interview on ABC's "This Week," Pfeiffer said, "I can promise you that the first enrollment numbers, which will be released later this month, are not going to be what we want them to be."
Pfeiffer attributed the lower-than-expected enrollment numbers to the problem-plagued website. He said, "The website hasn't worked the way we want it to work. But we take responsibility for that, we take responsibility for the errors, we take responsibility for fixing it." He added that once the problems are resolved, "I think we're going to be in a good place," noting, "The good news here is the history of programs like this... is that people sign up toward the end" ("Briefing Room," The Hill, 11/3).
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Friday expressed similar confidence in final enrollment numbers, saying the Obama administration would enroll "the numbers we need" for the ACA to work.
In an appearance on CNN's "New Day," Carney said that the White House "always expected [initial] enrollment figures to be low." He added that in Massachusetts, which in 2006 enacted "a health care reform plan very similar to" the ACA, "only 123 people enrolled for premium paying plans" in the first month ("Hill Tube," The Hill, 11/1).
Red State Democrats Concerned About Effect on Campaigns
Although Democrats continue to support the ACA, some Democratic senators -- particularly those up for re-election in GOP-leaning states -- are calling on the Obama administration to fix the faulty federal exchange website, Politico reports.
According to Politico, senators in red states could become the "most prominent casualties" of the ACA if issues related to the website, canceled insurance policies and higher premiums continue to negatively affect how the public views the law.
Republicans most recently have criticized the law and its supporters over reports that thousands of U.S. residents who hold individual policies are receiving cancellation notices.
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Brad Dayspring said, "Obamacare is a huge problem because it's the vehicle that drives home a crisis of credibility and competence for Democratic candidates." He added, "Every Democratic candidate promised that people could keep their health care plans if they like them. They aren't credible."
When asked how the rocky implementation could affect Senate Democratic candidates in 2014, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "If it's fixed, and when it's fixed, that will decide whether the issue is a big issue next year."
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said that the law's effects on the 2014 elections "all depends on the implementation" (Raju, Politico, 11/4).
Baucus Calls for Individual Mandate Delay
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Congress would need to consider delaying penalties for not obtaining coverage under the ACA's individual mandate if the website problems are not resolved, Politico reports.
During an interview on News Talk 730 radio in Billings, Mont., Baucus said, "If it looks like Humpty Dumpty isn't getting good, back together, maybe we should start thinking about delaying the penalties." He added, "It's not right to penalize people because of mistakes that the government has made because the exchange isn't working. So the better approach is making sure the exchange is working so we don't have to worry about the penalty problem."
Baucus said he plans to get more information regarding the faulty website when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before his committee this week (Haberkorn, Politico, 11/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.