The White House released a video Tuesday evening of President Obama and Obamacare chief Sylvia Burwell celebrating a “preliminary estimate” of 11.4 million Americans who signed up for insurance nationwide during the health law’s second open enrollment period.
“Our preliminary estimate is that there are 11.4 million Americans who have either signed up or re-enrolled in the second enrollment period,” Burwell told Obama in the video, which the White House posted on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday evening.
“And the final day, we had more consumers sign up than we’ve ever had, last year or this year,” Burwell added as background music cued up.
“It gives you some sense of how hungry people were out there for affordable, accessible health insurance,” Obama said. “The Affordable Care Act is working, it’s working a little better than we anticipated,” Obama added.
The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation originally predicted that 13 million Americans would sign up for coverage on Obamacare exchanges by this point; the agency downgraded that estimate to 12 million in January. The administration’s preliminary figures have failed to meet either projection.
But HHS issued a memorandum just before this open enrollment period began, which downgraded the agency’s own expectations to between 9.1 and 9.9 million customers at the end of the second enrollment period. HHS said it expected the exchanges to take longer to “ramp up” enrollment than the CBO and JCT had estimated.
Burwell emphasized that the 11.4 million figure is just a “preliminary estimate” and will still change. The administration has already pushed back the deadline to sign up for coverage on HealthCare.gov to Feb. 22 and most state-run exchanges have extended enrollment as well.
Burwell has said she’s considering offering a “special enrollment period” before tax season for Americans who missed the memo that Obamacare will charge a $325 penalty to those who don’t purchase health insurance this year (or 2 percent of income). That decision could come in the next several weeks.
A group of 10 Democratic senators wrote to Burwell Friday asking for an extra enrollment period. The increasingly hefty fines in the individual mandate, which will grow to $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of income by 2016, could spark more pushback against the health care law. Americans will have to pay the tax for the first time this coming tax season.
Changed deadlines aside, the estimate is still sure to change. Last year’s enrollment total, which came in at 8.1 million at the end of the enrollment period, fell to 6.7 million after sign-ups who didn’t pay for their plans were discounted and ineligible customers were kicked off their plans.