Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Exceed Expectations, Confound Republicans

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Yesterday the president announced that 8 million people have gotten health insurance through the federal marketplace, easily surpassing the original goal of 7 million. Combined with those who have enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, the young people who have been able to stay on their parents' health insurance and those who bought plans outside of the marketplace, the total comes to 14 million people who are ensured because of the Affordable Care Act.

The president is calling the results something that Democrats should “forcefully defend and be proud of” heading into the 2014 elections. And he kicked it off by taking a more forceful approach himself. “They said no one would sign up. They were wrong about that,” he said in a press conference. “They are wrong to try to repeal a law that is working.”

See why we are a nation of procrastinators after the jump.Of the 8 million who signed up, 35 percent are 35 years old or younger. This group's enrollment is critical to the success of the law, since they help cover the cost of the older and sicker populations. While the share of young people signing up is not as high as the administration hoped, it has improved tremendously since the early months of enrollment. It should also be noted that their premiums turned out to be 15 percent lower than was originally predicted.

The numbers are a surprise to many who perhaps underestimated our nation's tendency to procrastinate. While fewer than 400,000 people enrolled in October and November combined, 2.9 million people signed up in March – the last month to enroll. And 900,000 people actually enrolled in April during the grace period for those who began applications in March but were not able to complete them. That means nearly half of the $8 million who enrolled waited until the last 6 weeks of the 6 month open enrollment period to get covered.

But despite the procrastinating and the technical problems, we got there. Republicans, though, are still in denial about the law's success. Obama characterized Republicans as having “gone through the stages of grief,” but hopes that they may eventually “make the transition” to improving the ACA rather than trying to repeal it. “Anger and denial and all that stuff, and we're not at acceptance yet,” he said. “But at some point my assumption is that there will be an interest to figure out how do we make this work in the best way possible.”

Obama also called out the states, like Texas, who chose not to expand Medicaid, despite the fact that the expansion is almost entirely paid for by the federal government. If these states accepted the expansion, another 5 million low-income people would be able to enroll nationwide.  

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About Author

Emily Cadik

Emily is a Texas ex-pat and proud Longhorn living in Washington, DC, where she remains connected to the Lone Star State through her work on BOR and her enthusiasm for breakfast tacos. She works on affordable housing policy, and writes about health care, poverty and other social justice issues.

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