With the March 31 deadline for open enrollment approaching—or sort of approaching—the Obama administration said today that it has already hit its revised goal of getting 6 million people to sign up.
The original goal set by the Congressional Budget Office had been 7 million, but that got reduced after the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov. The administration said the website had 1.5 million visitors yesterday alone. “We’re at a level that’s likely to support a healthy system,” said Obama aide Cecilia Munoz. “The insurers are feeling pretty good about where we are, and so are we.”
There was an interesting shift in strategy by the agency in charge of enrollment: a focus on the penalties. In an email to people who had applied for coverage on the website but still hadn’t chosen a plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service issued a reminder that “you could pay a fee of up to 1% of your income on your 2014 taxes” by missing the deadline.
While the White House and President Obama have kept the ObamaCare message upbeat, “enrollment activists and pollsters are finding that the threat of a penalty is one of the most important factors in lower-income uninsured people deciding to find coverage,” writes Louise Radnofsky. The stick is proving more effective than the carrot, she adds.