- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

After nearly a year of full operation under its belt Obamacare is a growing success, and next year will be even better with 77 new insurers preparing to offer plans on the new insurance markets, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Tuesday.

“Four years after President Obama signed the law, middle class families have more security, and many who already had insurance have better coverage,” Ms. Burwell said in a speech at the Brookings Institution. “Fewer Americans are uninsured, and at the same time, we’re spending our health care dollars more wisely and we’re starting to receive higher quality care.”

Ms. Burwell took the helm at HHS after her predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, resigned in the spring amid the fallout from the botched Obamacare rollout. The federal HealthCare.gov website suffered major glitches at the beginning and the administration had to break or change several deadlines to try to make up for lost time.

But last week Ms. Burwell announced that 7.3 million Americans had bought and paid for insurance through the exchanges — or higher than the target of 7 million set by congressional scorekeepers.

Another 8 million Americans have enrolled in Medicaid or the children’s health insurance program, and when combined with those getting insurance on the exchanges, Ms. Burwell said, it signals a 26 percent drop in the number of uninsured adults.

Republicans predicted enrollment will decline. The House Energy and Commerce Committee said the administration had initially announced 8 million Americans had signed up for Obamacare as of late spring, which means the 7.3 million figure represents the beginning of that decline.

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GOP lawmakers also said they are concerned with continuing reports about the initial Obamacare rollout last October.

A new HHS inspector general’s report found continuing dangers to the private information Americans must divulge in joining the health exchanges.

“Seems like every day we hear a new report on problems with the Obamacare website,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican. “All these reports tell us one thing — President Obama’s administration cared more about appearing to be on time than about getting this website right.”

Questions about the glitches had overshadowed the Obama administration’s efforts to highlight individual success stories.

On Tuesday, Ms. Burwell returned to the anecdotes, pointing to a small-business owner who said she was able to enroll her family for premiums that were half of what she was paying before. They also saw a major drop in prescription drug costs.

In a new HHS report, Ms. Burwell said another measure of success is the participation of insurers.

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While California will see fewer insurers offering plans in that state, every other state surveyed will either keep the same number or see an increase in plans. Four will actually see their number of plans double.

Overall, states reported fairly static markets, with a turnover rate of well less than 10 percent in both federally run and state-operated exchange markets.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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