The Obama administration announced Thursday it had reached its target of 6 million enrollees in the Obamacare marketplace with four days left for Americans to sign up, a milestone that offers the White House political cover but is sure to draw skepticism from Republican critics who want to know how many people are actually paying their premiums.
Top health officials held up the announcement as a sign of momentum before Monday's deadline to sign up for private health coverage on the federal HealthCare.gov portal or one of 15 state-based health exchanges.
"We are seeing near record numbers of consumers coming to check out their options and enroll in coverage," said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in a blog post.
President Obama, traveling in Italy, convened a conference call with thousands of health care "navigators" and volunteers who are helping people enroll to thank them and announce the 6 million mark.
The Congressional Budget Office initially projected there would be 7 million enrollees in private coverage during the health care law's inaugural enrollment period from Oct. 1 to March 31. However, it revised its estimate to 6 million after the federal exchange and several state-run websites experienced disastrous tech glitches last fall.
The administration may boost its last-minute tally through rule changes it announced this week to make sure everyone who wants coverage can get through the door. It said people who are "in line" by the deadline can still self-attest that they started the process by March 31 and would like to finish up in early April.
It is unclear how many people may benefit from the allowance, how long people will have to complete the process or if there are consequences when someone lies about when they entered the system.
Republican lawmakers lambasted the move as just the latest tweak to a law they see as fundamentally flawed. They've also pressed the administration for numbers on how many people are paying for their new insurance, saying it is a truer measure of who has actually enrolled.
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