Washington, D.C. – The numbers are in and today at a press conference at the White House, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced that 11.7 million people bought insurance at either healthcare.gov or through one of the state run exchanges.
The 11.7 is extremely close to estimated 12 million people projected by the independent Congressional Budget Office. The number of people now using what has become known as “Obamacare,” far exceeded the 9.4 million that the White House estimated would sign up during open enrollment period that ended on Feb. 15. The period was extended until Feb. 22 to give people already in line time to finish their applications.
This not the end of people signing up for Obamacare this year as many as between one and four million people could be added to the ranks, as the administration will reopen enrollment from March 15 to April 30 for citizens who must pay the individual mandate penalty for not getting health insurance.
Burwell also took the opportunity Monday to express confidence that the administration will uphold millions of subsidies in a hotly contested legal case.
“The law is clear,” she said. “The text and structure of the law state individuals in every state are eligible for tax credits.”
Plaintiffs in the case King v. Burwell, which the court heard oral arguments on last week, beg to differ. The plaintiffs, spearheaded by the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, say the law allows subsidies only for residents in state-run health exchanges, and not 36 states covered by healthcare.gov.
Burwell has told members of Congress there is no backup plan in case the court strips subsidies, which will affect nearly 7.7 million individuals.
Burwell highlighted the enrollment numbers in states that use the federal marketplace and would lose subsidies if the high court upholds the plaintiffs’ challenge.
Almost 1.5 million Floridians receive an average subsidy of $294 a month, she said. More than a million Texans get an average of $239. More than 500,000 North Carolinians get $315.
“These numbers show just how important the tax credits are to millions of Americans and to the insurance markets in those states,” she said.
Burwell also questioned the motives of the conservative groups and Republican lawmakers who support the lawsuit.
“Those who support this lawsuit believe that the law should be dismantled or repealed and they are content to roll back the progress that we have achieved together,” she said.