House health care adviser Phil Schiliro said Tuesday that a goal of seven million people signing up for health insurance by the end of March was “never our target number,” attempting to downplay a figure that has been circulated for months.
“That was never our target number,” Mr. Schiliro said on MSNBC. “That was a target that was put out by the Congressional Budget Office and has become the accepted number."
In June, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said the administration was “hopeful that seven million is a realistic target.” In an interview with NBC News a day before HealthCare.gov launched Oct. 1, Mrs. Sebelius said that “I think success looks like at least seven million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”
Mr. Schiliro said Mrs. Sebelius cited the figure because it had come from the CBO — Congress’s nonpartisan budget scorekeeper — “and it had become an accepted number.”
“There’s no magic to the 7 million,” said Mr. Schiliro, a former Obama aide who returned to the White House this month to help with health care strategy. “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 January 1.
“There’s no doubt we had a slow start — October, November there weren’t many sign-ups,” he continued. “But in December, we had nearly a million people sign up on the federal exchange.”
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said this week that the pace ahead of March 31 — the last day of open enrollment — isn’t a problem just yet.
“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.
CNBC estimated that at least 2 million people have enrolled in private plans through federal and state still short of the 3.3 million federal officials projected for Dec. 31.
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