November 13, 2013

Health care sign-ups miss target nationally

About 27 million visit the website, but only 106,185 enroll in the first month, putting a statistic on the website’s disappointing technology flaws.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Planting a paltry number on a national disappointment, the Obama administration revealed Wednesday that just 26,794 people enrolled for health insurance during the first, flawed month of operations for the federal “Obamacare” website.

click image to enlarge

In this Nov. 6, 2013, file photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on the difficulties plaguing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Putting a statistic on disappointment, the Obama administration revealed Wednesday, Nov. 13, that fewer than 27,000 people signed up for private health insurance last month in the 36 states relying on a problem-filled federal website.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

click image to enlarge

Todd Park, the U.S. chief technology officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, right, speaks with Frank Baitman, the deputy assistant secretary for information technology at the Health and Human Services Department, center, as they and other technology officials arrive to testify before the House Oversight Committee about problems with the implementation of the Obamacare healthcare program, and specifically, the HealthCare.gov website, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. At left is Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Associated Press

Related headlines

Adding in enrollment of more than 79,000 in the 14 states with their own websites, the nationwide number of 106,000 October sign-ups was barely one-fifth of what officials had projected — and a small fraction of the millions who have received widely publicized private coverage cancellations as a result of the federal law.

The White House raced to reassure anxious Democrats who are worried about the controversial program, which they voted into existence three years ago and which seems sure to be a major issue in next year’s election campaigns. The administration, trying to regain the initiative, for the first time indicated a willingness to consider legislation to stave off the wave of cancellations that’s compounding the website technology problems.

Some Democrats are seeking changes in Obama’s signature program, and key Republicans, many pressing for repeal, said that even Wednesday’s feeble sign-up figures appeared to be pumped up. The final number — 106,185 people — would be even smaller if it counted only those who finalized their enrollment by actually paying their first month’s premium, Republicans said.

Administration officials and senior congressional Democrats expressed confidence in the program’s future. “We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is in overall charge.

“Even with the issues we’ve had, the marketplace is working and people are enrolling,” Sebelius said. Responding to GOP critics, she said the first premiums are not due until Dec. 15.

The online, state-level insurance markets were envisioned as the new portal to coverage for people who don’t have health plans on the job. But the federal market was overwhelmed by technical problems when it opened Oct. 1, and the experience of state-run markets has been mixed.

The administration said an additional 1 million individuals have been found eligible to buy coverage on the markets, with about one-third qualifying for tax credits to reduce their premiums. Another 396,000 have been found eligible for Medicaid, the safety-net program that is shaping up as the health care law’s early success story.

For many Democrats, concerns over the cascade of website problems has been compounded by the focus on Obama’s misleading promise that Americans who liked their health insurance plans could keep them under the overhaul. But millions of people are receiving cancellation notices. They have plans that for various reasons don’t qualify for the law’s “grandfather clause” protection against cancellations.

Obama has said he’s sorry that people are losing their coverage and has vowed to find ways to address “holes and gaps” in the law. Advisers originally said the White House was considering administrative fixes, not legislative options.

On Wednesday, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said, “If we can achieve this administratively, we will certainly look at that possibility,” but he added that the White House was also considering legislative ideas.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., scheduled an all-Democrats meeting Thursday with White House health care officials.

Republicans, meanwhile, are holding hearings to keep the overhaul’s problems in the spotlight ahead of an election year.

“It’s kind of interesting to see as Obamacare implodes how everybody’s running for cover,” said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. And Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, “Obviously, panic has set in on the other side.”

The administration has staked its credibility on turning the website around by the end of this month. From the president on down, officials have said that HealthCare.gov will be running smoothly for the vast majority of users by Nov. 30. They have not specified what “running smoothly” means.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)