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POLITICS: PennAve

Jay Carney: Initial Obamacare enrollment figures 'will be low'

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Politics,White House,Obamacare,Health and Human Services,Health Care,Medicare and Medicaid,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,House Ways and Means Committee,Jay Carney,Healthcare.gov

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Thursday set extremely low expectations for Obamacare enrollment numbers during October, the first month in which Americans were able to sign up for the federal insurance exchanges.

“Take it from me, they will be low,” Carney said of the numbers, which will be released next week.

The rollout of the insurance exchanges has been undermined by the massive failures of healthcare.gov, the website tasked with registering consumers for insurance. The site has been plagued with numerous technical glitches, forcing the administration to urge the public to register by phone and mail.

The White House has said that while they expect low initial numbers, they believe enrollment figures will hit their targets before the end of the registration period.

As a point of comparison, Carney pointed to the 123 people who signed up for Massachusetts' government health care offerings during its first month, a number that ended up to be only a tiny fraction of eventual enrollees.

“That represented .3 percent of those who eventually enrolled” in Massachusetts, he said. “That's the model to look at.”

Carney was responding to a question about whether the Obama administration would comply with a subpoena for the first month of Obamacare enrollment numbers from a key Republican lawmaker.

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, has twice subpoenaed the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for those numbers.

On Wednesday, Camp also wrote a letter to IRS Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel calling on the agency to disclose all information available to-date regarding eligibility determination for individuals applying for tax credits in the health care exchanges.

Side-stepping the question, Carney said it is the Obama administration's responsibility to make sure data is “assessed and made accurate before it is released publicly.”

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