Support for Obamacare swelled leading up to the final day of sign-ups for the health care law, when Obama administration officials pushed back against critics who accused the White House of “cooking the books.”
“I think it’s unfortunate that again people who are not very enthusiastic about having the law work, haven’t done any outreach to their constituents, haven’t given accurate information, are now suggesting that the enormous interest in enrolling for health care is not existing,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during an appearance on HuffPost Live.
“It does exist. We did pass the 6 million mark this week of individuals who had enrolled,” she added.Open enrollment for President Obama’s signature legislation is set to end Monday night. In the final days leading up to the cut-off, more Americans than ever said they supported the health care law. According to a poll released Monday by The Washington Post and ABC News, 49% said they support the law, with 48% who oppose it. Support among Democrats surged 11 points since January, with 76% approval. Meanwhile, Republicans remained steadfastly against the law, with 78% opposing it.
Ahead of the deadline, Republicans openly questioned the numbers released last week by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“I think they’re cooking the books on this,” Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, further arguing that enrollment numbers did not indicate the law was a success.
“What kind of insurance will those people actually have?” Barrasso asked. “Will they be able to keep the doctor that they want? How much more is it going to cost them? We know that some of the best cancer hospitals in the country want very little to do with people that actually buy this insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.”
Sebelius responded to Barrasso’s criticism of the quality of insurance people will receive under the new plans. “It covers hospital visits, prescription drugs, mental health services, and maternity care,” she said, adding “Full insurance and people can no longer ever be locked out because of a pre-existing health condition.”
“We’re just trying to meet people where they are, give them real life examples, and in some cases make them laugh,” she said. “As a mother of two 30-something sons I know they’re more likely to get their information on Funny or Die than they are on network TV.”
“So Senator Barrasso should rest assured that his constituents finally will have real health insurance for their premium dollars,” she added.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday the administration expects enrollment to be “significantly above 6 million” by the time the deadline hits.
Fox News took heat from the watchdogs at Media Matters Monday for running a misleading graphic that made the actual number of 6 million enrollees so far look like a small fraction of the target of 7 million. The Congressional Budget Office originally projected 7 million would enroll before lowering that projection to 6 million.
In addition to the more than 6 million Americans who will have signed up for insurance using the health care exchanges, a Los Angeles Times analysis found the Affordable Care Act has helped cover about 9.5 million previously uninsured Americans, describing it as “the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century.”
Those numbers include at least 4.5 million who signed up for coverage in their state’s Medicaid expansion, and another three million young adults who have coverage through their parents’ plans. Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated roughly 5 million more Americans could have access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act’s provisions if lawmakers in all states had agreed to expand Medicaid. The Times report also indicates fewer than 1 million people who had health insurance in 2013 currently lack insurance because their substandard plans were canceled.
The healthcare.gov website has suffered a handful of tech glitches on the final day of open enrollment, and briefly had to block new applications because the system was overrun with interest.
“There are a record number of people trying to access HealthCare.gov right now — more than 100,000 people concurrently in the system as of noon,” HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement.