TUESDAY, April 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- An 11-hour surge of
consumers signing up for health insurance under the federal
Affordable Care Act pushed the number to 7.1 million participants
as the first enrollment period came to a close Monday, the White
House announced Tuesday.
"The Affordable Care Act is here to stay," President Barack Obama announced during a speech at the White House Rose Garden Tuesday afternoon.
Obama, who championed the controversial health reform law that
some call Obamacare, added: "The bottom line is this: Under this
law, the share of Americans with insurance is up, and the growth of
health care costs is down. And that's good for our middle class,
and that's good for our fiscal future."
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported
that Monday was a "record-breaking day of operations -- with more
than 3 million visits to HealthCare.gov and more than 1 million
calls to the call center as of 8 p.m."
CNNreported Tuesday that the last-minute surge of consumers
included many young adults, whose enrollment is considered crucial
because they tend to be healthy and their insurance premiums are
intended to help cover the health care needs of older, sicker
Quoting an anonymous government official, the network reported
that "insurance companies were confident the percentage of young
people was sufficient for the insurance marketplaces to function
The law -- which the White House says is intended to reduce the
number of Americans without health insurance, estimated last year
to be 45 million -- remains highly unpopular with Republicans.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House of Representatives Speaker
John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the Affordable Care Act was hurting, not
helping, Americans, the
"Every promise the president made has been broken: Health care costs are rising, not falling. Americans are losing the doctors and plans that they like -- especially seniors suffering under President Obama's Medicare cuts. Small businesses are afraid to hire new workers, hobbling our economic growth. That's why we must replace this fundamentally flawed law with patient-centered solutions that will actually lower health care costs and help create jobs," he said.
The prospect of 7 million Americans signing up for insurance
under the Affordable Care Act seemed unlikely as recently as last
week, when federal officials were saying approximately 6 million
people had registered for coverage.
Technically, some people can still sign up for health insurance
even though the deadline passed on March 31. Last week, the Obama
administration said that Americans who'd started applying for
health insurance but couldn't complete the process by the deadline
would be given an extension. Administration officials did not
specify how long the extended enrollment period would last.
Officials said the extension was being offered partly out of
concern that the federal HealthCare.gov website could become
overwhelmed as last-minute registrants scrambled to meet the
deadline or face a penalty in the form of a tax.
The enrollment process got off to a nightmarish start back in
October with the troubled unveiling of the HealthCare.gov website.
Computer glitches and software problems made the website virtually
unusable for long periods of time.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act pounced on the botched
launch, which was deeply embarrassing to Obama. The law is
considered Obama's signature domestic achievement.
HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states that do not operate their
own registration websites, is now in a state of "transition" with
new content to serve "consumers in meeting post-open enrollment
needs," the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
The new homepage will have information for consumers on
enrollment if they qualify for coverage outside of the
just-concluded open enrollment period. These consumers include
people experiencing a "major life change, such as marriage or job
loss." There will also be information instructing consumers on how
to use the new coverage, CMS said.
With some exceptions, people who are uninsured for most of 2014
may have to pay a penalty during next year's tax season under
provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The maximum penalty for 2014
is $95 per adult and half of that for children (up to $285 for a
family of three or more) -- or up to 1 percent of household income,
whichever is greater.
According to the White House, one of the main objectives of the
Affordable Care Act is to expand access to affordable health care
options. The law led to the creation of the online marketplaces, or
exchanges, where people in each state and the District of Columbia
could compare health plans and sign up for coverage.
Now that the first enrollment deadline has passed, most
Americans won't have another chance to sign up for coverage until
the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15. Coverage
purchased during that time won't take effect until 2015.
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