“ObamaCare is dead,” President Trump tweeted in May. It’s a tune the GOP has been singing for months as they have tried and failed time and time again to repeal the law. But it’s simply not true.
More than 600,000 people enrolled in Obamacare in the first four days of open enrollment, according to numbers released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services Thursday. At this rate, sign-ups are on pace to significantly exceed last year’s numbers in the first 12 days of the enrollment period when 1,008,218 signed up for coverage.
This year, on average, more than 34,000 people have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act each day since open enrollment began, compared to about 20,500 each day last year.
“It’s a huge start to open enrollment,” Lori Lodes, a former Obama administration official now working for the Get America Covered campaign told ThinkProgress Thursday.
The question, she said, is how to keep the momentum going.
This year’s open enrollment period is significantly shorter than years past, running from November 1 to December 15 rather than November 1 to January 31. Additionally, the Trump administration has slashed the ACA advertising budget by 90 percent and cut $33 million from navigator groups that help people enroll in coverage.
“There’s zero doubts that it’s hurting the number of sign ups,” Lodes said of the advertising budget cuts. “It will hurt even more going forward… One of the things that’s important to understand is if this is how well the enrollment is doing without the administration doing what’s necessary, imagine how many more people would be enrolling if they were.”
But, Lodes said, the fight surrounding repealing and replacing the ACA, in some ways, acted as a powerful advertisement for the law.
“There’s been such a misinformation campaign,” Lodes said. “Because we had this debate around repeal, we were able to help people better understand [the law].”
As the fight around repeal dominated the news cycle, Lodes said she suspects people were going to healthcare.gov to see how expensive coverage would be, and realized instead that, for many people, it was a way to get affordable care. Additionally, the repeal fight was an opportunity to remind people of some of the popular aspects of the law, including coverage for preexisting conditions and the requirement that the plans cover maternity care.
The enrollment news comes on the heels of further proof that the repeal fight ultimately backfired on the GOP.
On Tuesday, voters in Maine overwhelmingly elected to expand the state’s Medicaid program, becoming the first state to take the expansion offered under Obamacare via the ballot box, and although Gov. Paul LePage is attempting to block the initiative, it will likely become law. By mid-August of 2018, some 70,000 people should have access to the health care program for low-income people.
Additionally, in Virginia, a survey of voters found that health care was top of mind for many people. According to the poll, health care was the most important or a very important issue for 67 percent of voters. Those who said health care was most or very important to them voted for winning Democratic candidate Ralph Northam, who has promised to protect the health care law, by a margin of 62 to 32.