On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that Obamacare enrollment has officially topped seven million — exceeding the expectations for the health law after persistent website glitches made the enrollment process more difficult for some Americans. The 7,041,000 figure reported by the administration does not include the people who enrolled in state-based exchanges on Monday, and also doesn’t include anyone who’s still waiting in the queue for their application to be processed.
There was widespread recent speculation that Obamacare enrollment would successfully hit the seven million mark. On Monday night, administration officials told the Associated Press that Obamacare was “on track” to sign up seven million people. During his daily briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Carney confirmed that health law sign-ups have now surpassed that threshold, as Americans rushed to get their applications in before the end of the first open enrollment period.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) originally projected seven million sign-ups for President Obama’s health care overhaul, but revised that projection down to six million after HealthCare.gov’s rocky rollout this fall. The administration hit the six million milestone on Thursday, after hitting five million just ten days earlier.
This last-minute surge in enrollment was not entirely unexpected. As demonstrated by previous efforts to enroll Americans in government-run health care programs, people typically wait until the deadline approaches to sign up. And the number of enrollments will likely end up climbing even further, since the Americans who have had difficulty with the website will be allowed to complete the process in April.
Detailed enrollment data is not yet available, so it’s not clear how many people are gaining insurance for the first time or how many people have already paid their first premium. But outside reports estimate that at least 9.5 million previously uninsured Americans — including the people who enrolled in the new exchanges, the people who are now eligible for Medicaid, and the young adults who are now on their parents’ plans — have gained coverage under Obamacare.
Although Obamacare’s insurance exchanges have hit the CBO projection, the health law’s expansion of the Medicaid program has fallen short. When the Affordable Care Act first passed, the CBO projected that about 17 million additional low-income Americans would enroll in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). But, since the Supreme Court ruled the Medicaid expansion optional, over 20 GOP-controlled states have resisted expanding their public insurance programs. So the agency eventually revised that figure down to eight million.
In fact, the anti-Obamacare lawmakers who continue to resist expanding Medicaid are leaving an estimated five million of the poorest Americans without any access to affordable care whatsoever. These people fall into a so-called “coverage gap” — making too much money to qualify for their state’s Medicaid program without the expansion, but too little money to qualify for federal subsidies to purchase a plan on the exchanges.