About a month ago, the Obama administration released its enrollment totals for the Affordable Care Act, offering data that covered just the first month of the open-enrollment period. Given the systemic problems with healthcare.gov, the figures were expected to fall far short of projections, and they did – 106,185 consumers signed up for health insurance through an exchange in October, and only about a quarter of that total signed up by way of the federal marketplace.
The totals were vastly improved in November. Sarah Kliff reports this morning:
Just about 1.2 million people have gained health coverage through Obamacare, according to new federal data released Wednesday morning.Approximately 365,000 of those people have purchased private insurance and 803,000 have been determined to be eligible for the public Medicaid program. These numbers count data from both October and November, and show an especially quick growth in HealthCare.gov enrollment…. Enrollment through the federal exchange grew from about 27,000 people in October to 137,000 through the end of November. […]In the 14 states running their own exchanges, sign-ups went from 79,000 in the first month up to 227,000 for the two months together.
The full HHS report is available to the public here (pdf). Note that the enrollment totals do not include 1.9 million Americans who have not yet selected a plan, but who’ve gone through the eligibility process. Also note, these totals include the period before the darn website got fixed.
The Affordable Care Act’s detractors will, of course, be quick to note that the administration’s projected enrollment numbers, released before consumers could sign up, expected to be further along by now. That’s true. That said, (a) website troubles got the process off to a slow start; (b) this is what always happens with the rollout of a federal project of this scope; (c) growth from October to November was tremendous, and December is likely to be even better; and (d) the White House expected enrollment to start slow and then pick up speed, and that’s what’s happening.
For that matter, let’s also not forget the contradictory nature of the right’s complaints. About 1.2 million people have now gotten coverage through “Obamacare,” but for Republicans, that number is both too high and too low – it’s too high because conservatives would prefer that total to be zero, and it’s too low because the right expects the administration to meet its pre-launch targets. For those interested in a serious debate, the criticism is hard to take seriously.
Finally, as the enrollment figure grows more quickly, the GOP’s repeal crusade dies more quickly, too. As we discussed last week, the fight over health care is no longer an abstraction over hypothetical benefits. There’s a profound difference between “Republicans are voting to deny you a benefit you don’t yet enjoy” and “Republicans are voting to take away your health insurance and replace it with nothing.” The former struck GOP officials as plausible; the latter is politically suicidal.
Whether the right wants to admit it or not, I can think of about 1.2 million reasons – and growing – why the Affordable Care Act isn’t going away.