Obamacare chief repeatedly dodges questions on number of Obamacare enrollees

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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“We’ll have that information available for you in mid November.”

That line was repeated over and over again during a congressional hearing Tuesday by a top Obama administration official involved in the implementation of Obamacare this month.

Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, repeatedly refused to say how many people have actually enrolled in the new Obamacare exchanges while under questioning from Republican Rep. Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Tavenner appeared before the committee to answer questions about the botched roll out of the health care law and problems with its website, which has prevented people from being able to sign up for health benefits.

On Tuesday, Tavenner said: “I want to apologize to you that the website is not working as well as it should.” But she wouldn’t say how many people have successfully enrolled.

Here’s the exchange between Camp and Tavenner:


Camp: Administrator Tavenner, how many people have enrolled in the exchanges?

Tavenner: Chairman Camp, that number will not be available until mid-November. We have over 700,000 who have completed applications.

Camp: So you know the applicants but do you know the enrollees? Do you have any idea of how many of those applicants became enrollees? Because that’s really the number that matters.

Tavenner: We will not have that until mid-November. We have people who are shopping now. We expect the initial number to be small. And I think you’ve seen that in our projections. And that was the Massachusetts experience as well.

Camp: I have to tell you, the numbers I’m hearing from insurers in my home state of Michigan are not good…of enrollees. A very small number. In fact, I think I could have a meeting in my office and have all of them fit in, of the people who have successfully enrolled in the plans. I understand that CMS’s stated goal is 7 million enrollees by the end of March. Is that correct?

Tavenner: That’s correct.


Camp went on to ask about an internal memo predicting enrollment numbers.


Camp: According to the press report, the memo estimated that 494,620 people would sign up for health insurance under the program by Oct. 31. We’re obviously very near that date. Have you met that estimate?

Tavenner: We will not have those numbers available until mid November.

Camp: So do you not know? Do you not ave any idea of how many people have enrolled?

Tavenner: Folks are still in the process of enrolling. Both in the state-based exchanges and in the federal exchange. And we will have those numbers available in mid-November.

Camp: Are you getting those numbers?

Tavenner: Am I getting those numbers? Not yet.

Camp: You have no numbers on whose enrolled. So you have no idea?

Tavenner: We will have those numbers available in mid-November.

Camp: So no one is forwarding even weekly updates?

Tavenner: I think you’ve seen of the press. And I think that was on the graph earlier about what states have listed. We will get those in mid November.

Camp: I understand you are not publicly releasing those numbers, but I’m asking do you have any idea of – on a weekly basis — how many people enrolled. How do you not know how many people enrolled?

Tavenner: Chairman Camp. We will have those numbers available in in mid-November.

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Alex Pappas