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GOP slams ObamaCare enrollment figures as Dems push for 'fix'

 

Republican lawmakers pounced on Wednesday's dismal ObamaCare enrollment report, arguing that the scant participation demonstrates the law has failed, as Senate Democrats prepared to meet with White House officials amid concerns over the fallout from health policy cancellations prompted by the law.

House Speaker John Boehner said the report, which falls far short of the administration's goal for health insurance exchange enrollments, underscores the "urgent need for President Obama to allow people to keep the plans they have and like."  

"Above all, this report is a symbol of the failure of the president's health care law," Boehner said in a statement. "It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped."  

The Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday that more than 100,000 people have selected a health care plan through the ObamaCare exchanges. The administration had originally hoped to sign up a half-million people in the first month of open enrollment. 

Now more than six weeks into the troubled launch of HealthCare.gov and other state-based exchanges, HHS announced Wednesday that 106,185 people had selected a plan as of Nov. 2. And just 27,000 did so via the federal exchanges.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., pressed the administration for more enrollee data, including a breakdown of who is signing up, what kind of coverage they are purchasing and what the high risk insurance pools look like.   

“With the little data we have so far, I fear we could see a fundamental breakdown of the insurance market with coverage gaps and skyrocketing premiums – pricing millions of Americans out of health care, yet still forced to pay the individual mandate tax," Camp said in a statement.   

Wednesday's announcement had been highly anticipated, as lawmakers have been pressing the administration for weeks on official figures. But even the statistic revealed on Wednesday might be inflated. 

The administration said the figure counts all those who have selected a health care plan from state and federal exchanges, even if they haven't yet paid a premium on those plans.

One source explained to Fox News that no one is really "enrolled" until the insurance company knows about it.

After the announcement, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said it would not surprise him if the enrollment figures are inflated, suggesting the Obama administration "might be putting a rosier spin on the numbers than the reality." 

"The President should admit what a disaster it is," Grassley said in a statement. "He should work with Congress on something bipartisan that would address health insurance problems without disrupting what does work in our health care system. 

Still, the numbers announced Wednesday stand as the most definitive account to date from the administration of how many people have been able to wade through the problem-plagued website and pick a plan.

The administration says a total of 975,407 applied for coverage and received an eligibility determination, but have not yet selected a plan. In addition to the 106,185 who have selected a plan, another 396,261 have been determined as eligible for Medicaid or a similar government program for children.

A closer look at the numbers, though, shows how problems with HealthCare.gov have hampered the ability of would-be customers to enroll. Though the administration says the website is being fixed and it's getting better by the day, the stats show only 27,000 people signed up via the federally run exchanges. The state-run exchanges, which use different websites, signed up roughly 79,000. More than half of those sign-ups came from California and New York.

In addition to the website problems, the administration is grappling with widespread complaints about insurance policies being cancelled due to ObamaCare restrictions.

House Democrats have delivered a fix-it-or-else ultimatum to President Obama, giving his administration until Friday to find an affordable solution for the millions of Americans losing their health plans under the law -- or risk some Democrats backing a Republican solution. 

Obama has said he's sorry that people are losing their coverage and has vowed to find ways to address "holes and gaps" in the law. Advisers originally said the White House was considering administrative fixes, not legislative options. 

On Wednesday, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said, "If we can achieve this administratively, we will certainly look at that possibility," but he added that the White House was also considering legislative ideas.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., scheduled an all-Democrats meeting Thursday with White House health care officials.

Republicans, meanwhile, are holding hearings to keep the overhaul's problems in the spotlight ahead of an election year.

"It's kind of interesting to see as Obamacare implodes how everybody's running for cover," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. And Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, "Obviously, panic has set in on the other side." 

Three more swing state Senate Democrats seeking re-election in 2014 signed onto legislation drafted by Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to ensure that anyone liking their current coverage would be able to keep it, an attempt to resolve the issue of cancellations.

In the House, meanwhile, majority Republicans set a vote for Friday on legislation to permit insurance companies to continue selling existing policies that have been ordered scrapped because they fall short of coverage standards in the law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.