Obamacare Adviser: 7 Million Was Never 'Magic' Enrollee Number

Tuesday, 31 Dec 2013 07:06 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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White House healthcare policy adviser Phil Schiliro denies that attracting 7 million enrollees to Obamacare by March was ever the administration's goal.

That figure was put out by the Congressional Budget Office in March, and was "never our target number," Schiliro told NBC News Monday.

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Schiliro, who returned to the Obama administration in December to oversee healthcare policy after he'd been on hiatus for nearly three years, said there is no "magic" significance to signing up 7 million new customers, although that number has widely been seen as the administration's goal for months.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in June that the Obama administration was "hopeful that 7 million is a realistic target," The Washington Times reported.

Further, she said on Sept. 30, the day before the Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, launched on Oct. 1, that "success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014."

Schiliro, though, said Sebelius was merely citing a figure that came from the CBO, "and it had become an accepted number."

"There's no magic to the 7 million." Schiliro said. "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."

The numbers ahead of March 31, which is the last day for open enrollment, aren't a problem yet, said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"We are in the middle of a sustained, six-month open enrollment period that we expect to see enrollment ramp up over time, much like other historic implementation efforts we've seen in Massachusetts and Medicare Part D," she said.

About 2 million people have enrolled for insurance so far, which is still lower than the 3.3 million the government had projected by this time.

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