PUBLISHED: 10:21 EST, 1 April 2014 | UPDATED: 16:28 EST, 1 April 2014
A triumphant President Barack Obama declared Tuesday his signature medical insurance overhaul a success, saying it has made America’s health care system ‘a lot better’ in a Rose Garden press conference.
But buried in the 7.1 million enrollments he announced in a heavily staged appearance is a more unsettling reality.
Numbers from a RAND Corporation study that has been kept under wraps suggest that barely 858,000 previously uninsured Americans – nowhere near 7.1 million – have paid for new policies and joined the ranks of the insured by Monday night.
Others were already insured, including millions who lost coverage when their existing policies were suddenly cancelled because they didn’t meet Obamacare’s strict minimum requirements.
Still, he claimed that ‘millions of people who have health insurance would not have it’ without his insurance law.’
‘The goal we’ve set for ourselves – that no American should go without the health care they need … is achievable,’ Obama declared.
The president took no questions from reporters, but celebrated the end of a rocky six-month open-enrollment period by taking pot shots at Republicans who have opposed the law from the beginning as a government-run seizure of one-seventh of the U.S. economy.
‘The debate over repealing this law is over,’ he insisted. ‘The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.’
The president also chided conservatives ‘who have based their entire political agenda on repealing it,’ and praised congressional Democrats for their partisan passage of the law without a single GOP vote.
‘We could not have done it without them, and they should be proud of what they’ve done,’ Obama boasted, in a clear nod to November’s contentious elections in which Republicans are expected to make large gains on an anti-Obamacare platform because of the law’s general lack of popularity.
On its way to 7 million, the Obama administration has never answered some key questions about the open enrollment period.
The White House has instead kept to its talking points.
‘What I can tell you is that we expect there to be a good mix of people who were previously uninsured who now have insurance,’ Carney said Monday.
‘Certainly, there’s a significant number who now have qualified for Medicaid in those states that expanded Medicaid who will have insurance who didn’t have it before.’
The midnight deadline for enrollment has become a temporary formality, as the Obama administration has offered extensions to anyone willing to claim they tried in earnest to sign up in time.
Sebelius promised Congress weeks ago that there would be no extension.