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Obamacare Enrollment Number High on Deadline Day, Despite Technical Issues

Affordable Care Act Sign

April 2, 2014

As the initial enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, often coined Obamacare, came to a close Monday, a surge of late registrations pushed total projected sign-ups beyond the administration's goal -- and, according to Reuters, created yet another technical glitch with the Healthcare.gov website, which got off to a notoriously rocky start at its launch last year. Nonetheless, several publications are calling these initial estimates a victory for President Obama and the Democratic Party.

The Washington Post reported that despite a six-month window for Americans to sign up for insurance under the ACA, thousands upon thousands of enrollees waited until the last minute. Shopping-mall kiosks, insurance company buildings and public halls were full of people racing to get coverage -- and to avoid financial penalty.

"It's like going into the mall on Christmas Eve," Brian Lobley, senior vice president of Independence Blue Cross, told The Washington Post. Lobley's firm set up a "Countdown to Coverage" center with extra desks and phone lines in the lobby of its headquarters to help with last-minute enrollments.

While the surge in late sign-ups was probably good news for proponents of Obamacare, it created technical woes for the HealthCare.gov website. The site had already opened three hours after schedule following routine maintenance, and by noon, visitors were greeted with a page advising them to wait because a high volume of traffic could interfere with user experience. Visitors were invited to leave their email addresses so that they could be notified when volume decreased. Reuters noted that the though the site was closed as expected on Tuesday, people who were unable to complete their applications Monday would still get an opportunity to finish them.

Despite these setbacks, the Los Angeles Times reported that enrollments may exceed the administration's original goal of 7 million, later re-adjusted to 6 million. It could be days or even weeks before final tallies are in, but the Rand Corp. estimated that another 4.5 million of previously uninsured adults have signed up for Medicaid in states that expanded the program under the ACA. The firm estimates that about 3 million young adults obtained coverage thanks to an ACA provision that now allows them to stay on their parent's plans until age 26.

The Washington Post noted that President Obama seemed "relieved" by the news during a Monday night appearance on "The CBS Evening News."

"We admittedly had just a terrible start because the Web site wasn't working," Obama said, noting the site's rocky start. "But given how gloomy I think everybody's assessment was back in the middle of November, I'd say that we're on our way to making sure that no American ever has to go without health care."

According to Reuters, the success of Obamacare could help Democrats in the November elections. However, despite high enrollment numbers, House Speaker John Boehner on Monday once again pledged to repeal the program.


Compiled by Aimee Hosler

Sources:

"HealthCare.gov stumbles on deadline day as consumers race to sign up for insurance," washingtonpost.com, March 31, 2014, Amy Goldstein, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/healthcaregov-pushed-beyond-capacity-new-applications-halted/2014/03/31/03cbc234-b8fb-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html

"Obamacare enrollment to hit seven million target despite setback," reuters.com, April 1, 2014, Jeff Mason, David Morgan, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/01/us-usa-healthcare-enrollment-idUSBREA2U0QW20140401

"Obamacare numbers are coming in huge: Here's a guide to GOP excuse-making," latimes.com, March 31, 2014, Michael Hilzik, http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-obamacare-numbers-20140331,0,4488747.story#axzz2xfDRDM39

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