Approximately 4 million people have purchased insurance through the ObamaCare exchanges, President Obama told volunteers at an Organizing for Action (OFA) summit in Washington on Tuesday.
“We now have more than 4 million Americans who have signed up for quality, affordable health insurance,” Obama said. “Four million. That's on top of the 3 million young people who have been able to get covered staying on their parents plan … you've already made sure people all across America are getting better coverage.”
But the number of people who have actually purchased coverage is likely significantly lower. Analysts estimate that as many as 20 percent of enrollees haven’t paid their first month's premium, meaning roughly 800,000 of that 4 million do not actually have insurance coverage.
Moreover, the enrollment numbers raise doubt about whether the administration would reach the original Congressional Budget Office projections of enrolling 7 million in the initial enrollment period. (That projection was downgraded to 6 million following the early troubles with the ObamaCare website.) Consumers must purchase coverage before March 31 or wait until the enrollment period reopens toward the end of the year.
Earlier this month, Vice President Biden acknowledged a “shaky” rollout of the law and said the administration might miss its enrollment targets.
“We may not get to 7 million; we may get to 5 or 6, but that's a hell of a start,” Biden said.
Obama told attendees at the OFA event that the slow start was due to glitches with the ObamaCare website.
“Let’s face it, the website didn’t work for the first month,” Obama said.
He also accused opponents of the law of spending “hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, to spread misinformation.”
“A lot of people who could really use this coverage are unsure,” Obama said, asking volunteers to help spread the word. He asked supporters to rally those who might not like him personally or “watch the wrong newscast.”
“We want everyone covered, not just some,” he said.
The administration said in a blog post it would not release more detailed information — including a breakdown of what percentage of young adults had enrolled — until the end of the month.
Earlier Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration was “on track” to sign up enough young consumers.
“We believe, based on the data we've seen thus far and based on the experience that Massachusetts had, in the closest thing to a model and precursor to the Affordable Care Act at a state level, that we will achieve that necessary demographic mix for the exchanges to work effectively,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services said 27 percent of enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34. In September, the administration forecast that 38.5 percent of total enrollees would be within that age range.
Healthcare experts have warned of a “death spiral” if not enough young, healthy adults buy into the ObamaCare marketplace to offset the cost of insuring older and sick Americans. A study report by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 4 of 10 enrollees would need to be between 18 and 34 years old to prevent a rise in premiums in subsequent years, although the same report finds that the percentage of young consumers already enrolled would prevent the so-called "death spiral."
Carney said the administration long expected younger voters to be among the last to purchase insurance.
“Young people tend to be late signers-up. They tend to come at this very late. And, hence, as we telegraphed way in advance, there is an enormous effort aimed at reaching young people to make sure they are aware of all the options available to them,” Carney said.
— This post was updated at 7:12 p.m.