Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), discussing the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent release of Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers on Monday, blamed a “negative propaganda campaign” by Republicans for the delayed surge.
According to HHS, 1.1 million people have enrolled in a health insurance plan through the Obamacare exchange thus far, approximately 2 million short of the department’s Jan. 1, 2014, goal. To account for the shortfall, Norton argued that nearly 50 House Republican attempts to repeal the law have served to wrongfully convince millions of Americans that the law was successfully repealed.
“What we have been battling now is first, every time the House couldn't think of anything else to do, it had a big debate on repealing Obamacare, so there are millions who think it was repealed," Norton told MSNBC host Richard Lui. "So there was no way to break through that very easily."
Norton also voiced frustration with Healthcare.gov's early glitches for contributing to the troubled enrollment efforts.
“Then comes the debacle of a website, which seemed to confirm that it must have been repealed, or it should have been repealed,” Norton added.
Despite setbacks, Norton expressed confidence in the Obama administration’s ability to meet the critical March 31, 2014, deadline to secure 7 million enrollments.
“We all do the same thing -- last minute -- and when that fine is going to kick in, you’re going to see people trying to sign on like you’ve never seen it before,” Norton told MSNBC.
Uninsured individuals must obtain health coverage by the end of March to avoid tax penalties for non-compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
More than 1.1 million people enrolled in a qualified health plan via the Federally-facilitated Marketplace from October 1 to December 24, with more than 975,000 of those enrolling this month alone. Our HealthCare.gov enrollment nearly doubled in the days before the January 1 coverage deadline compared to the first few weeks of the month. December enrollment so far is over 7 times that of October and November. In part, this was because we met our marks on improving HealthCare.gov: the site supported 83,000 concurrent users on December 23rd alone.
In addition to predicting Obamacare’s financial viability, the enrollment numbers also symbolize a defining issue in next fall's midterm elections. With their eyes on vulnerable Republican seats, Democrats are looking to tie enrollment shortcomings to the Republican-held House's ceaseless repeal attempts and the 16-day government shutdown and to GOP governors' refusal to set up state exchanges or expand Medicare options. For their part, Republicans are trying to capitalize on the botched online rollout, still too low enrollment numbers and slew of canceled junk insurance policies.
"Voters are more motivated when something is taken away from them," Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told reporters in November while discussing Healthcare.gov.
Shifting blame to the GOP, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that "voters are paying members of Congress to do a job, to get things done, not to just sit back and obsess about repealing a single law,” according to the Associated Press.