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GOP rips Obamacare enrollment figures

By Alan Silverleib, CNN
updated 6:21 PM EST, Wed November 13, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Republicans say Obamcare enrollment figures show the law is fatally flawed
  • Boehner: "It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped"
  • Cantor: It's "just another day in a series of messups for Obamacare"
  • Only 106,185 Americans signed up for insurance in the month after the website rollout

Washington (CNN) -- Congressional Republicans used Wednesday's dismal Obamacare enrollment figures to bolster their case that the Affordable Care Act needs to be dismantled -- a persistent GOP rallying cry since the law was first passed in 2010 with no Republican votes.

Obamacare's first month: 106,000 signed up

"Above all, this report is a symbol of the failure of the President's health care law," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a written statement. "It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped."

Boehner, whose caucus forced a partial government shutdown last month as part of an effort to derail Obamacare, argued that "these numbers underscore the urgent need for President Obama to allow people to keep the plans they have and like" -- a reference to those Americans who have lost coverage due to Obamacare's more stringent coverage requirements.

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White House officials revealed Wednesday that only 106,185 Americans signed up for health insurance through Obamacare in the program's first month of operation -- a figure far below initial hopes and estimates.

Fewer than 27,000 Americans selected an insurance plan through the federal HealthCare.gov site, which is handling enrollment for 36 states.

In addition to sign-ups, nearly 975,500 people have submitted health insurance applications and learned whether they are eligible for Obamacare subsidies. Those people, however, have not yet selected a plan.

How many have enrolled?

FAQ's: What will enrollment numbers tell us about health of Obamacare?

The initial figures are a far cry from the seven million people the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected would gain coverage through the exchanges during the initial sign-up window ending March 31.

If that number is spread evenly over the course of the open enrollment period, 1.16 million people would need to purchase insurance each month in order for the administration to be on pace to reach the seven million figure in six months.

The administration had projected that nearly 500,000 people would be enrolled through Obamacare in the first month after the website's October 1 rollout, according to administration documents provided to CNN by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Michigan.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, called the first month's numbers "pretty stunning."

It's "just another day in a series of messups for Obamacare," he told CNN's Jake Tapper.

"This has been an embarrassment and maybe a disaster," former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Tapper. "Why are you going to trust people this incompetent with your health?"

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House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California, called the numbers "staggeringly low," and urged House Democrats to back a GOP-authored bill up for a vote on Friday that would give insurance companies the option of continuing to offer plans currently available on the individual market.

"We expect each and every one of them to keep the promise originally made to the American people" by President Barack Obama that individuals would be able to keep their health insurance plans if they want to do so, McCarthy said.

"Americans deserve access to quality, affordable health care, but this law isn't providing that," added Camp.

"I fear we could see a fundamental breakdown of the insurance market with coverage gaps and premiums skyrocketing - pricing millions of Americans out of health care."

The administration tried to lower expectations in advance of Wednesday's announcement. White House Spokesman Jay Carney said earlier this week that enrollment numbers "will be lower than we hoped and we anticipated."

In addition, officials have been quick to point out that enrollment is unlikely to occur at an even pace.

No enrollment figures, however, would likely assuage GOP critics of Obama's signature legislative accomplishment.

While Republican foes of Obamacare have used terms like "disaster" and "epic" to describe the botched launch of HealthCare.gov, many of them have also conceded that the website's technology problems will likely get resolved over time.

The broader GOP focus remains their intense dislike for the entire Affordable Care Act.

Among other things, Republicans have accused Obama of lying to the American people in selling the reforms, and railed against its impact, including individual policyholders getting cancellation notices and premium price hikes in some areas.

"The only way you're going to fix this is to repeal Obamacare," Cantor said.

Map: State-by-state breakdown of Obamacare enrollment

White House officials get earful from House Democrats

Can Congress really save insurance plans lost under Obamacare?

Many in Congress avoiding Obamacare exchanges

CNN's Tom Cohen, Tami Luhby and Adam Aigner-Treworgy contributed to this report

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