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Obamacare enrollment surge: Mission accomplished or misleading blip?

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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

(Read caption) In this November photo, Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing. On her blog, Tavenner reported that tech fixes to Healthcare.gov have worked.

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HealthCare.gov handled a December surge in Obamacare sign-ups with apparent aplomb, according to administration officials. More than 975,000 Americans enrolled in private insurance plans through the federal health-care marketplace during the month, bringing the total since Oct. 1 to 1.1 million enrollees.

Tech fixes to the front end of HealthCare.gov appear to have worked, wrote Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, on her official blog. On Dec. 23 alone, the site supported 83,000 simultaneous users without crashing.

“We are in the middle of a sustained, six-month open enrollment period [and] we expect to see enrollment ramp up over time, much like other historic implementation efforts we’ve seen in Massachusetts and Medicare Part D,” Ms. Tavenner writes.

In addition, roughly 850,000 people have signed up for coverage through state-run Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges, according to private estimates. That puts Obamacare’s total enrollment near 2 million. This figure is within shouting distance of the administration’s original estimate of 3.3 million enrollees before Jan. 1.

Woo-hoo! Mission accomplished, right? Is it time for the president to stand in front of a banner in the White House press room and declare victory?

Not so fast, and no, it isn’t time. Even Obamacare’s supporters acknowledge there’s still a long way to go before the effort can be judged a success – or failure.

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