WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s declaration that 7.1 million health-plan enrollments serve as a rebuke to critics of his signature law won’t diminish the opposition nor stop the scrutiny of the overhaul’s effect.
“The Affordable Care Act hasn’t completely fixed our long-broken health-care system, but this law has made our health-care system a lot better,” Obama told administration officials, lawmakers and other supporters in the White House Rose Garden. “The debate over repealing this law is over.”
The enrollment figure is a symbolic achievement for the president, matching initial estimates by the Congressional Budget Office that his administration adopted as a goal before new insurance exchanges opened Oct. 1. In February, after the marketplaces experienced widespread computer errors, preventing many people from signing up until December, the CBO scaled back its estimate to 6 million. That number was reached by March 27.
The total announced by Obama doesn’t reflect all enrollment from 14 separate state exchanges on the final day or people who started the process and weren’t able to finish because of technical difficulties.
HealthSource RI said Tuesday that 27,968 people signed up for private insurance through the Rhode Island state exchange, in addition to 56,531 people who signed up for Medicaid.
Republicans said the national figure lacks credibility because it doesn’t account for people who never pay their first premium to their insurers, the final step required to enroll. While the law sought to provide health-care coverage to the uninsured, it’s not clear how many people who enrolled through the exchanges already had a health plan.
“These numbers are a total fantasy - they’re arbitrary and fictitious,” Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said in a statement yesterday that was typical of the reaction from his party.