WASHINGTON, March 12 There will be no delay in
the penalty most Americans face under President Barack Obama's
healthcare reform law if they fail to obtain health coverage
this year, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen
Sebelius said on Wednesday.
Sebelius also said there would be no postponement of this
month's deadline for enrolling in coverage through new private
health insurance marketplaces or the Medicaid program for the
"No, sir," was Sebelius' categorical answer when asked about
both prospects by Representative Kevin Brady of Texas at a
hearing of the House of Representatives Ways and Means
Speaking a day after her department released new Obamacare
data showing private insurance enrollment rising to 4.2 million
people as of March 1, Sebelius rebuffed Republican claims that
the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's implementation
was failing to attract enough enrollees.
In response to Representative James Renacci, an Ohio
Republican, Sebelius said the sign-up effort would be a success
despite the botched October rollout that led the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office to pare back its enrollment forecast
from 7 million to 6 million people.
"Success looks like millions of people with affordable
health coverage, which we will have by the end of March in the
private marketplace, in Medicaid, young adults on their family
plans," she said.
"We will have, I think, a successful plan. We have a market.
We have competition."
The latest data shows February private enrollment dipping to
940,000 people from more than 1.1 million in January, a change
the administration attributed to the shorter 28-day month.
Administration officials on Monday predicted that millions
of enrollees will sign up for coverage in March, suggesting
total enrollment could surpass the latest CBO forecast.
The government is mounting an intensive enrollment drive
aimed mainly at younger adults, aged 18 to 34, whose
participation in the Obamacare marketplaces is vital to the
President Barack Obama appeared Tuesday for an interview on
the comedy website, "Funny or Die," in a direct appeal to the
site's audience of young adults.
The video drew 11 million viewers while Tuesday visits to
the federal website HealthCare.gov surged 40 percent to more
than 890,000, according to the administration.
But the consulting firm Avalere Health said in a report on
Wednesday that the finally tally would likely be 5.4 million.
The forecast assumes that Obamacare will follow the same pattern
as the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan rollout in 2006,
which saw 22 percent of enrollees sign up in the final month.
The penalty for failure to obtain health coverage phases in
over three years. It will rise from the greater of $95 per adult
or 1 percent of family income for this year to $695 per adult or
2.5 percent of family income for 2016.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Tom Brown)