Views You Can Use: Obamacare Deadline Day Comes and Goes

The administration claims enrollment may have reached 7 million, but what does that even mean?

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The Obamacare enrollment deadline has come and gone.

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The Obamacare enrollment deadline of March 31 came and went with no absence of the partisan bickering that’s surrounded the health care law since its passage in 2010. While White House officials have indicated enrollment may have reached 7 million, Republicans insist the number of people who have signed up for insurance on the exchanges has been “cooked.” The administration’s original enrollment goal of 7 million was decreased to 6 million following rollout struggles.

The White House also announced last week that those who had started signing up for insurance before the deadline but were unable to finish would receive an extension, so the final figures may not be available for quite some time. It is also important to note that only those who actually pay their premiums receive coverage, and there will likely be those who signed up on the exchanges who don’t wind up paying.

All of these factors have led to squabbling in the blogosphere regarding how many people have actually signed up, how many have gained insurance because of other portions of the law (like young adults under 26 years old remaining on their parents’ plans), and how many of all of the above were previously uninsured.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Obamacare.]

According to the Los Angeles Times, at least 9.5 million people now have insurance that previously did not. This includes those who signed up through the online exchanges (2 million), those young adults remaining covered under their parents (3 million) and those who signed up through a Medicaid expansion in the 27 states that opted in (4.5 million).

Byron York writing for the Washington Examiner argues that “lacing new burdens of higher costs and narrower choices on millions of Americans, in addition to setting the stage for coming changes in employer-based coverage” isn’t justification enough for Obamacare. He noted that, via the Times numbers, the largest amount of new insured resulted from Medicaid and keeping young adults on parents’ plans, not from those enrolling in the exchanges. “The part where Democrats essentially blew up the health care markets, imposed the individual mandate, and caused premiums to rise and deductibles to skyrocket?” he wrote of Obamacare. “That hasn't been such a success.”

But Martin Longman of Washington Monthly said that York unfairly discounts all the people who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act just because they didn’t get their insurance on the exchanges. “Not only is that consistent with the design of the law, but it’s what should be expected,” Longman wrote. “Most people are either too poor to afford insurance or they get coverage from their employer.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Steve Benen of MaddowBlog said that the specific enrollment figures aren't actually what's important:

As a practical matter, it really doesn’t much matter whether the total is 6.9 million or 7.1 million – it’s almost a matter of bragging rights at this point, but it doesn’t really affect the structural integrity of the system – and it’s also worth noting that yesterday wasn’t necessarily the inflexible deadline anyway.

Benen wrote that “conservatives need to get a grip” and they must “stop rooting for the American system to fail.”

Everyone must remember that the actual enrollment figures will depend upon who actually pays their premiums, wrote Guy Benson at Town Hall. He said the White House will “inevitably put out a triumphal enrollment number” but this caveat must not be forgotten.“By the administration's metrics, unpaid 'selections' of plans are being counted as enrollments, even as experts estimate that between 20 and 25 percent of this inflated total will have their non-enrollments dropped due to lack of payment,” he wrote.