President Obama said Friday enough people have already signed up for ObamaCare that he is “confident” his signature legislative accomplishment will function properly.
“At this point, enough people are signing up that the Affordable Care Act is going to work,” Obama said in a WebMD interview. “The insurance companies will continue to offer these plans. We already have 4 million people, over 4 million people, signed up."
The president said he expects “a larger number” still to be enrolled by March 31.
“The pool is already large enough, the number of people who have signed up is large enough; I’m confident the program will be stable,” Obama said.
Obama’s confidence in the program comes despite indications the administration will fall short of its initial enrollment targets.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had originally projected that 7 million individuals would enroll in ObamaCare plans in the first year, although it backed away from those predictions after the early troubles with HealthCare.gov. The most recent CBO report projected that 6 million Americans would enroll, while the administration now declines to set a specific enrollment goal.
“The impact in terms of the program has always been more based on the mix of people who sign up,” Obama said in the WebMD interview, adding that insurers needed a mix of “gray-haired” enrollees like himself, as well as young, healthy consumers.
An analysis from consulting firm Avalere Health completed earlier this month projected that about 1.2 million people would sign up over the final weeks of the ObamaCare enrollment period, bringing the total to 5.4 million enrollees.
The administration is looking to boost that number as much as possible with a media blitz, including the president’s interview with WebMD. Administration officials said they were eager to tap into the "enormous reach" of WebMD. The website sees more than 156 million unique visitors per month, and 60 percent of those users are women — a target demographic for the administration.
A third of those users are aged 18-34 — the younger, healthier potential enrollees the administration wants to sign up for insurance to keep premiums low. Nearly four out of every 10 of younger WebMD users is without health insurance.
In the past week, the president has also participated in a town hall on health insurance with Hispanic broadcasters, and an interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis on his “Between Two Ferns” Web talk show. On Friday, the White House released a video featuring first lady Michelle Obama and the mothers of celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez and Jonah Hill.
“With only 18 days left to get health coverage this year, it’s never been more important for moms and women around the country to make sure that they are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, which offers families more affordability, more options, and more peace of mind,” said a White House official.
In the WebMD interview, Obama argued that consumers who are wary of purchasing health insurance because of the cost “may end up being pleasantly surprised” after finding out which tax subsidies they qualify for.
Many of the questions in the interview, which were submitted by users of the website, focused on costs of insurance under the plan. Obama said that some of the issues raised were the byproduct of the U.S. tradition of private-based insurance.
“Obviously, there are other countries who have government run healthcare or have a single-payer plan in which case, the government really controls much more tightly how healthcare distributed,” Obama said.
“There are pluses and minuses with having a private healthcare system.”
Still, the president defended many of the plans available on the exchanges and said, ultimately, they were worth purchasing.
“Good solid insurance with some deductibles and co-pays is better than no insurance at all,” he said.