Late Obamacare surge jams website

Signs ups for the Affordable Care Act shoot up in the hours before April 1st

GETTING HEALTH CARE. Screenshot of Healthcare.gov.

WASHINGTON, DC, USA – Tens of thousands of Americans jammed the website for President Barack Obama’s health care law Monday as a 6-month window closed to sign up for plans under his top domestic achievement.

The White House, which has paid a heavy political price for the unpopular law, was triumphant as a predicted late rush for policies materialized and banished memories of a disastrous website outage that haunted the launch of enrollments late last year.

But it will be months before the long-term success of Obamacare in broadening access and making medical insurance affordable can be assessed, and the law remains a political albatross for the president and fellow Democrats.

“There has been a remarkable story since the dark days of October and November,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

The White House said that the final enrollment figures for the first year would be substantially higher than the 6 million figure already recorded.

Officials had previously set 7 million enrollments as the standard for success – a figure that could now be approached by the midnight deadline.

The health care law is Obama’s signature domestic political achievement and the most sweeping social reform in decades in the United States.

Yet its passage and implementation ignited a partisan battle and highlighted deep political and ideological divisions cleaving the United States.

Obamacare drained the president’s political stock and its unpopularity threatens to help Republicans put a stranglehold on Congress in November’s mid-term elections.

‘Cooking the books’

Officials said a problem with the Affordable Care Act website stopped people from establishing new accounts for several hours.

But the glitch, as more than 100,000 people were already signed into the system, was fixed with 10 hours to go until the midnight deadline.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hailed the “huge surge day” in an interview with HuffPost Live.

By early afternoon, the Healthcare.gov website was recording record traffic with 1.6 million visitors.

Hours later, more than 840,000 calls had been placed to Obamacare sign-up phone lines – also a record.

It was not known, however, how may people completed the process of applying for the plans on Monday.

Republicans, however, are rubbishing administration claims, warning that the new law is crippling small business owners and costing jobs.

“I think they’re cooking the books,” Republican Senator John Barrasso told “Fox News Sunday.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner warned “the problem was never just about the website – it’s the whole law.”

“Millions of Americans are seeing their premiums rise, not the lower prices the president promised,” he added.

Objective judgments on Obamacare are hindered by a lack of detail in enrollment figures offered by the administration.

It is unknown how many young people have signed up – an important indicator since they are needed to subsidize higher costs of older, sicker patients.

If Obamacare pools skew too old, the cost of premiums could rise next year.

Also unclear is whether everyone who registered for a health plan actually paid for it.

Another unknown is what percentage of those signing up had no prior coverage.

Knowing that is important because the law’s bedrock goal is to provide health care for over 40 million Americans who lack it.

Last minute push

Vice President Joe Biden visited a “one stop” sign-up center in Washington, and told people waiting to enroll that although the process was complicated, it was worth it.

“You are going to be better off for it. The country is going to be better off for it,” Biden said.

As a whole, the health care law remains unpopular: a recent Pew Research poll found that 41% approved of it and 53% opposed it.

The partisan breakdown of the poll tells the political story -– 8% of Republicans supported the law, compared to 72% of Democrats.

Republicans have lambasted what they see as an unacceptable government power grab in the private health care market.

Obamacare threatens to do more than dent the president’s approval ratings – now hovering around 40%.

Democrats battling to cling on to Senate seats in traditionally conservative states face a barrage of negative advertising slamming their previous votes in favor of Obamacare. – Rappler.com

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