With 6 Million Enrolled, White House Defends Obamacare
Policy + Politics

With 6 Million Enrolled, White House Defends Obamacare

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In a telephone call with people working to enroll consumers in health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama on Thursday said the program had reached the milestone number of 6 million sign-ups. 

The announcement means that the administration has met the projections of the Congressional Budget Office, which revised its original estimate of the number of sign-ups down to 6 million from 7 million after the program’s disastrous rollout last fall. 

Related: White House Extends Enrollment Time for Obamacare 

At almost the same time that Obama made his announcement, Cecilia Muñoz, assistant to the president and director of the domestic policy council, sat down at The Atlantic’s Health Care Forum in Washington and delivered a strong defense of the controversial law. 

While conceding that the rollout was indefensibly botched, she said that the administration’s job has been made much more difficult by “pretty consistent yelling about the law since the congressional debate.” 

She said that communicating about Obamacare with the public has been a struggle because its opponents have dominated the discourse with claims “deliberately intended to provoke a negative reaction. You have to break through that layer to have an honest conversation.” 

One of the major concerns about the people signing up for Obamacare is that they would be disproportionately older and sicker than the general population, creating a risk pool that would force insurers to increase rates sharply. 

Related: Insurers on Obamacare – Expect Premium Prices to Soar 

Muñoz said that is not the case. On the question of the risk pool, she said, “From what we hear from the insurance companies and analysts in general is that we’re at a level that’s likely to support a healthy system.

“They’re feeling pretty good about where we are. So our focus is to do everything we can to maximize enrollment,” she said. 

She also suggested that opponents of the law are unfairly using every increase in costs as a cudgel to beat on the law. 

“You have to put that in context,” she said. “So, we’re in a health care system where premiums have risen every year since what feels like the dawn of time, right? And in the individual market they’ve been rising at a rate of 15 percent. Actually the growth in health care costs is growing at its lowest rate in 50 years.” 

Muñoz also pointed out that so-called “rate shock” that was predicted during this enrollment period never materialized, and suggested that the mix of enrollees in the exchanges should prevent one going forward. 

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