In a game of political one-upmanship, the Obama administration on Thursday announced “unprecedented demand” for Obamacare coverage just hours before House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other GOP leaders planned to formally pass on legislation to the While House designed to dismantle President Obama’s signature national health insurance program.
More than 11.3 million people have signed up for Obamacare coverage so far -- exceeding the government’s forecast late last year by 1.3 million with nearly a month still remaining to enroll. The strong turnout of Americans signing up for a new round of health insurance coverage came despite widespread concerns about Obamacare, including rising premiums and co-payments and the collapse of nearly half of the 23 non-profit insurance plans created under the program in 2011 at a cost of $2.4 billion.
“We’re seeing unprecedented demand for Marketplace coverage with more than 11.3 million people signed up for coverage,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement today. She also noted that a higher percentage of young people were signing up than before, which is an important development in building a healthier pool of enrollees to try to limit overall costs.
One reason for the rise in young enrollees is the increased tax penalty, which this year jumps to 2.5 percent of your household income, or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, to a maximum of $2,085.
Burwell announced last October that she expected 10 million Americans to sign up for coverage on the federal and state insurance exchanges by late 2016. That figure was only half the most recent forecast by congressional budget analysts, who anticipated a major surge in enrollment during the third full year of the program. Roughly 9.1 million Americans signed up for insurance under the program in 2015.
Whether or not the administration was intentionally low-balling the new projections to stay on the safe side, the 11.3 million preliminary figure is a strong one. But it will not attract praise from GOP critics.
On Wednesday, congressional Republicans finally made good on a multi-year effort to gain final passage of legislation to repeal the program and send the measure to the president. The bill passed the House, 240 to 181, following passage in the Senate 52 to 47, last month. Previous House-passed bills to dismantle Obamacare became bottled up in the Senate because of Democratic opposition. But this time Senate GOP leaders used an arcane budget reconciliation process that overcame a Democratic filibuster.
The measure underscores for the Democrats the importance of retaining control of the presidency this year to preserve the health care program.
However, for now, Obama will veto the legislation, with no possibility that House and Senate Republicans could muster the votes to override the president.
“We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth: Obamacare doesn’t work,” Ryan said at a news conference on Wednesday.