White House: O-Care struggles expected

White House press secretary Jay Carney admitted Thursday that White House officials expected enrollments in the ObamaCare health exchanges to be low in the first month.

"If you're asking me if enrollment will be low, the answer is 'yes,' " Carney told reporters on Thursday.

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The White House press secretary conceded that technical issues plaguing the ObamaCare website were partially to blame for his low expectations. But he also said that it was "always going to be the case" that the exchanges would struggle to sign up new enrollees in the first week.

Carney pointed to Massachusetts, where the president spoke on Wednesday, to downplay expectations. In that state, only 123 enrollees signed up in the first month health plans were offered. One fifth of eventual enrollees added coverage in the last month insurance was available.

The administration has thus far declined to say how many individuals have successfully signed up for coverage, promising only a monthly update in the middle of November.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said enrollment numbers for those who joined through the HealthCare.gov website were not specifically available because some of the overall technical problems that have plagued the website.

"We have no reliable data about enrollment, which is why we haven't given it to date," Sebelius said at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. 

The administration has estimated that some 700,000 individuals nationwide have submitted applications through the four separate ways they can apply — online, by phone, in person, or by mail — but the number of consumers who successfully purchase insurance in the first month is expected to be far lower.