Views You Can Use: Cooking the Obamacare Books?

Obamacare's numbers are in the spotlight as the enrollment deadline arrives.

HealthCare.gov as photographed on March 1, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

The March 31 deadline to sign up for health insurance through Obamacare's exchanges is approaching.

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Monday, March 31 is the final day for people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The deadline for individuals to sign up for coverage has been delayed several times, and last week the administration said people who had attempted to sign up before April would be granted an extension.

Indeed, the White House said Monday that more than 100,000 people were on the site at the same time, causing issues in accessing certain features. Users already in the system were not experiencing problems, according to a spokesman, but those attempting to create new accounts were unable to do so. The issues were fixed, the administration said, around an hour later.

The White House announced that signups for Obamacare on the online exchange sites surpassed 6 million last week, before a busy weekend and final enrollment day Monday. Some Republicans, however, contend that the administration is inflating Obamacare enrollment numbers. "I don't think it means anything. ... I think they're cooking the books on this," said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., on "Fox News Sunday."

[See a collection of political cartoons on Obamacare.]

Johnathan Cohn of the New Republic wrote that Republicans like Barrasso are attempting to contest the reported enrollment numbers because Obamacare’s success is politically inconvenient for them. “They are doing what they almost always do when data confounds their previously held beliefs. They are challenging the statistics — primarily, by suggesting that most of the people getting insurance already had coverage,” Cohn wrote.

There is “literally no evidence” that enrollment numbers have been inflated, wrote Steve Benen of MSNBC. He also noted that Republicans change their opinion on the importance of the figures as it suits their politics. “When enrollment totals were low, Barrasso said the figures were very important. When enrollment totals surged, Barrasso said the figures don’t mean anything,” Benen wrote. “At least some form of intellectual consistency would be a welcome change of pace, but it’s apparently in short supply.”

Jed Lewison of Daily Kos said that the flip-flopping isn’t a result of Barrasso actually believing what he’s saying:

Despite his claim to the contrary, Barrasso doesn't really believe that the White House is cooking the books. He doesn't believe there's a massive fraud going on, because there isn't. Instead, he believes that Obamacare's growing success poses a serious threat to the Republican Party's political prospects and he's scrambling for any argument he can to get his party through 2014, whether or not it's grounded in reality or consistent with what he's been saying in the past.


[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post said that the 6 million number touted by the White House last week is meaningless until data is available on how many of those people actually pay their premiums. He also said that the only figure that should matter is the amount of people who sign up that were previously uninsured, which was President Barack Obama’s stated goal behind the law. “The goal was to cover the uninsured,” Thiessen wrote. “That was the justification for all the chaos and disruption Americans have experienced — and that is the standard by which the administration should be judged.”

U.S. News’ Robert Schlesinger writes that approaching 7 million enrollees is not out of the question. Reaching 7 million “would be an astonishing turnaround after the dismal website roll-out and could at least temporarily change the narrative surrounding the law as the media focuses more on success stories than glitches and website blackouts,” he writes.