White House Says Six Million U.S. Residents Enrolled in Exchanges
President Obama and CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on Thursday announced that more than six million people already have signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act's federal and state insurance exchanges, the Washington Post reports (Eilperin, Washington Post, 3/27).
Details of Announcements
Obama first shared the news during a conference call with exchange navigators and volunteers who have been helping with the enrollment process (Washington Post, 3/27). An official familiar with the call said Obama, who is on a foreign trip, "encouraged the navigators and volunteers to redouble their efforts over the next four days and leave no stone unturned" in getting more people to enroll before the March 31 deadline (Joachim, New York Times, 3/27).
Later in the day, Tavenner blogged about the enrollment surge and a spike in visitors to HealthCare.gov, the federal health insurance exchange website (Washington Post, 3/27). She wrote that on Wednesday alone, HealthCare.gov received more than 1.5 million visits and federal help centers received more than 430,000 calls (New York Times, 3/27).
According to HHS, 1.8 million people already have enrolled in coverage since March 1, surpassing the department's enrollment goal of 1.2 million for the entire month. Tavenner wrote in her blog post, "We are seeing near record numbers of consumers coming to check out their options and enroll in coverage" (Washington Post, 3/27).
The latest enrollment surge means that the administration has reached the Congressional Budget Office's February projection that six million enrollees are necessary to ensure the insurance system is sustainable, USA Today reports (Kennedy, USA Today, 3/27).
CBO previously estimated that about seven million people would sign up for coverage through the exchanges, but analysts reduced the figure primarily because of the troubled rollout of HealthCare.gov last fall (California Healthline, 3/18).
Number of Paid Enrollments Still Unclear
Meanwhile, some critics of the ACA note that the Obama administration's announcement still does not include some key data that would provide a complete picture about actual coverage rates and the success of the exchanges.
Specifically, HHS has yet to release data on how many enrollees have paid their first month's premiums or were previously uninsured (USA Today, 3/27).
Earlier this week, two House GOP leaders sent HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter stating that she was "evasive and perhaps misleading" in her testimony during a recent House Ways and Means Committee hearing about whether HHS knows such details, which are key in determining how many individuals actually have gained coverage and benefit from the law (Easley, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/25).
Meanwhile, Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have launched a probe to gather detailed enrollee information from every insurer with health plans on HealthCare.gov, including the number of enrollees who have paid their first month's premiums (California Healthline, 3/14).
Brendan Buck, press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said administration officials "won't say how many have paid, so the [six million] number is likely significantly lower," adding, "And every survey has shown most people who've signed up already had coverage, so they're not actually newly insured" (USA Today, 3/27).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.