President Barack Obama told a conference-call audience of 200,000 progressive volunteers on Monday evening that 'more than 100 million Americans' – in a nation of less than 314 million – have successfully signed up for health insurance via the Affordable Care Act.
A weary-sounding Obama made the gaffe during a call hosted by Organizing For Action, the nonprofit successor to his campaign organization Obama For America.
'I just wanted to take a few minutes to speak to everybody because you guys are the ones who are in the trenches, day-in, day-out,' Obama said, complaining of 'misinformation' that has circulated about his signature health care law.
But 'problems with the website ... have created and fed a lot of this misinformation,' he admitted.
Boasting of his administration's skill in encouraging taxpayers to buy health insurance policies through public marketplaces, he claimed that 'in the first month alone, we've seen more than 100 million Americans already successfully enroll in the new insurance plans.'
Obama didn't skip a beat or make any effort to correct himself, and his next comments did little to clear up the mistake.
'You've got a million Americans who've completed an application for themselves or their families,' he continued. 'And that represents about a million-and-a-half people.'
'And of those million-and-a-half people, you've already got a whole bunch of folks who have successfully signed up to get coverage, and you've got almost 400,000 folks who could gain access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.'
'So effectively, in a month,' he said, 'we've already got half a million Americans who will likely have the security of health care – for the first time, in some cases, in their lives – as soon as January 1.'
It's likely Obama meant to initially take credit for 100,000 success stories, rather than 100 million. But his mangling of the statistics put him off-track by a factor of 1,000.
And even the smaller number relies on a flexible definition of what counts, and what doesn't, as an Obamacare subscriber.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Nov. 13 that 106,185 Americans chose health insurance plans through public exchanges between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2, including the headache-plagued healthcare.gov and the more stable marketplace websites run independently by 14 states and the District of Columbia.
Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for Action, led the conference call and claimed that 200,000 people were listening Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for Action, led the conference call and claimed that 200,000 people were listening
But the Obama administration included in that number everyone who had identified a health care plan and placed it into a virtual online shopping cart. HHS hasn't said how many of them have actually made a purchase.
The president's claim that 'a million Americans ... have completed an application for themselves or their families' is also up for debate since that number refers to people who the government acknowledges 'have not yet selected a plan.'
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney previewed the call on Monday afternoon, telling reporters that the administration is 'obviously in a moment of time, as applies to the Affordable Care Act, where a lot of focus, understandably, is being directed toward the problems with the websites and other issues.'
During the call, Organizing For Action executive director Jon Carson announced that 'at the national level' his organization would be 'partnering with fantastic progressive organizations' to persuade more Americans to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.
He named the Center for American Progress, Planned Parenthood ,the Service Employees International Union and Enroll America.
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