About 12.7 million Americans signed up for 2016 health insurance coverage through the government insurance exchanges, surpassing its expectations, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said on Thursday. That means Republicans running in this year's elections may find it harder to deliver on their promise of repeal, while Democrats may yet be able to tap the newly insured as a voting constituency.
When the first open-enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act began in October 2013, it failed miserably thanks largely to a website that simply didn't work. After a month, an underwhelming total of 106,185 consumers signed up for insurance through an exchange.
And Republicans thought this was hilarious. The GOP's "Obamacare" critics, not at all shy about rooting for failure, openly mocked the system, pointing to sports venues with more than 106,185 seats. For the right, low enrollment totals stood as undeniable proof that the Affordable Care Act was "hurtling toward failure," and conservatives could hardly contain their glee.
A little more than two years later, the right's laughter has disappeared -- right along with the low enrollment totals.
"Open enrollment for 2016 is over and we are happy to report it was a success," Burwell told reporters. "It's clear that marketplace coverage is a product that people do want and need."
Going into the open-enrollment period, the Obama administration projected totals between 11 million and 14 million, and yesterday's announcement put the actual figure almost exactly between those two points.
So far, I haven't seen any congressional Republicans pointing to stadiums that can hold 12.7 million people. Maybe they're still looking.
The Huffington Post's Jeffrey Young, who took a deeper dive into the new numbers, added yesterday, "[M]easured by its performance expanding health coverage to Americans who previously lacked it, Obamacare is working. Since health insurance plans from these exchanges and coverage from expanded Medicaid took effect at the beginning of 2014, the uninsured rate sharply dropped. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates 17.6 million more people were covered as of the third quarter of 2015 than at the end of 2013."
For an even more granular look, don't miss the analysis from Charles Gaba at ACA Signups.