White House denies promising 7 million Obamacare signups: ‘That was never our target number’
White House health care adviser Phil Schiliro denied that the Obama administration ever set Obamacare enrollment goals of 7 million consumers, saying Tuesday it “was never our target number.”
Schiliro spoke with MSNBC’s Kristen Welker about the stumbling health care law’s prospects moving forward. Current numbers show roughly 2 million signups for Obamacare at the end of December — 1 million short of what the White House projected months ago. Previous administration estimates counted on at least 7 million enrollees by the March 31 deadline, with concerns that government health exchanges could function poorly — or even break down — if a smaller number signed up.
But on Tuesday, Schiliro pretended the White House never set a goal of 7 million, even suggesting that benchmarks weren’t necessary at all:
WELKER: Are you confident that you’re going to be able to meet your target of getting 7 million people by the end of March? And is that still your target number?
SCHILIRO: Well, that was never our target number. That was a target that was put out by the Congressional Budget Office and has become the accepted number. But there’s no —
WELKER: Well Kathleen Sebelius has said 7 million people, that that’s the goal.
SCHILIRO: But that was because it came from the Congressional Budget Office and it had become an accepted number. There’s no magic to the 7 million. What there is magic to is that in the month of December, a million Americans signed up for insurance. Not because they had to. They didn’t face a penalty if they didn’t. They signed up because they wanted insurance on Jan. 1.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did, of course, set a goal of 7 million sign ups back in June, calling it a “realistic target.” The White House has since backtracked: In November, spokesman Dan Pfeiffer lowered the bar to simply “as many people as possible.” But Tuesday marks the first time an administration official outright denied issuing the target in the first place.
Schiliro said he “wanted to come this morning and give some new numbers” on Obamacare enrollments, but that he was unable to do so at this point. “We don’t want to put out any numbers that aren’t absolutely accurate,” he explained. He promised, however, that state and federal exchange numbers will be impressive when finally released.
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