Almost half a million people have begun applying for health insurance through federal and state exchanges, the Obama administration said on Saturday. The release — the first measure of the law’s progress — comes two days before President Obama publicly addresses the error-ridden rollout in a speech on Monday and cabinet officials prepare to travel throughout the country encouraging people to sign-up for insurance.
Though the White House would not release how many people have successfully enrolled in insurance, it estimates that over half of the 476,000 filed applicants have come from “the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead in running the markets. The rest of the applications have come from the 14 states running their own markets, along with Washington, D.C,” the Associated Press reports. Nineteen million people visited HealthCare.gov — the federal government’s online portal for buying health care coverage in the law’s new marketplaces — since Oct. 1.
In his remarks on Monday, Obama is expected to acknowledge the technical and design problems associated with the website and stress that administration officials and technology experts are working around the clock to correct the errors. Though the White House has fixed some of the initial delays users experienced when visiting the site and creating accounts, insurers say they are still receiving duplicate enrollments, missing data fields, and other errors.
As a result, administration officials are stressing that health care reform is more than a website and are encouraging the uninsured to sign up through the national call center. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services “will increase the numbers of call center representatives by 50 percent when volume is high to ensure questions get answered and people can start to apply,” the AP notes. The uninsured are also finding more success enrolling in Obamacare through one of the state-run exchanges in states like Minnesota or New York, where consumers are able to “window shop’ for insurance without establishing an account and are often encountering plans that offer more benefits and cost less than previous forms of coverage.
Since the end of the shutdown, Republicans are turning their political attention to Obamacare. Presidential hopefuls like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are telling voters that the effort to undo the health care law “really has just begun” and this week the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Implementation Failures: Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose?” Meanwhile, public support for repealing the law is dropping. Half of Americans told Gallup that they “want the Affordable Care Act repealed or scaled back, down from 57 percent in January 2011.”
During an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the website’s technical glitches were “unacceptable,” adding that “This has to be fixed.” “[B]ut what doesn’t have to be fixed is the fact that tens of millions of more people will have access to affordable, quality health care. That no longer having a preexisting medical condition will bar you from getting affordable care,” she added.
This post has been updated with Pelosi’s comments.