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The White House celebrated earlier this week when 7.1 million Americans signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act marketplaces since they opened in October 2013.
Predictably, the law’s critics were not as thrilled. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoke on Hannity Tuesday night about what he sees as the reform’s shortcomings.
"I mean, the purpose of Obamacare was not to get 7 million people or 6 million people, or whatever the number now is, to sign up on a website," Rubio said. "The purpose of Obamacare, according to them, was to get more people insurance. And by all accounts, it's going to fall woefully short. You're still going to have 30-some-odd million people in this country uninsured."
We wanted to know if Rubio’s claim was correct that the health care law was falling short of its goals. Rubio’s office didn’t return our request for comment.
One thing that struck us is that Rubio is mixing up numbers for the law’s first year and what policy makers hope the law achieves over the long run. No one expected to see the law’s full effects in the first year after the health care marketplaces opened.
The best authority on health care numbers is the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which regularly publishes independent estimates of the law’s effects.
In February 2013, months before healthcare.gov launched, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 7 million people would sign up on the marketplaces by March 31, 2014, after the marketplace had been open for six months.
The CBO estimated that by 2019, 27 million people will have signed up on the marketplaces. There will still be roughly 29 million people uninsured by that time, which is close to the number Rubio mentioned. But that’s down from 55 million uninsured in 2013.
Not everyone will end up with health insurance for a variety of reasons. Undocumented workers aren’t eligible to shop on the marketplaces. People living in states that have decided not to expand Medicaid will also be among the uninsured.
The law also has a hardship exemption. That means homeless people, domestic violence victims, people caring for disabled family members and others can apply to have the penalty fee waived for not purchasing insurance under the reform’s individual mandate.
Rubio claimed the Obama administration’s goal for the Affordable Care Act was to get 30 million Americans insured, not the 7 million who enrolled by the March 31 deadline. Down the road, there are targets to insure millions more via the online marketplaces. But the clearly stated goal for 2014, that the White House hit just in time, was 7 million signups. By 2019, that number is expected to jump to 27 million.
Rubio does have a point that many Americans will remain uninsured under the reform, but his claim twists the administration’s timeline for enrolling uninsured Americans. We rate his claim Mostly False.
Congressional Budget Office, "Estimate of the effects of the Affordable Care Act on health insurance coverage," February 2013
Congressional Budget Office, "Selected CBO publications related to health care legislation, 2009-2010," December 2010
Hannity, "Sen. Rubio on continued issues plaguing Obamacare," April 1, 2014
Health Insurance Marketplace, "Application for exemption from the shared responsibility payment for individuals who experience hardships," accessed April 3, 2013
Modern Healthcare, "Sebelius hopeful 7 million enrollees a ‘realistic target,’ " June 24, 2013
NBC Nightly News, "Sebelius: ‘We bear part of the responsibility’ for health care confusion," Sept. 30, 2013
PolitiFact, "Obama adviser Gene Sperling says administration offered ‘no magic number’ for health care marketplace signups," Jan. 5, 2014
Washington Post, "Left behind: Stories from Obamacare’s 31 million uninsured," Sept. 8, 2013
Washington Post, "More than 7 million have enrolled under Affordable Care Act, White House says," April 1, 2014
Washington Post, "Obama says 7.1 million Americans have signed up under health care law," April 1, 2014
Washington Post, "So the Obamacare goal was 7 million?" April 1, 2014
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