Administration Sets Low Bar for 2016 Health Law Enrollment

WASHINGTON (Tribune Washington Bureau/TNS) -

The Obama administration is again dramatically scaling back projected enrollment in health plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act, predicting that about 10 million people will have coverage through the health law’s marketplaces by the end of next year.

That is only a small increase over 2015, when 9.1 million Americans are expected to have coverage through the marketplaces, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The 2016 target is also significantly lower than what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had predicted. Earlier this year, the budget office estimated 21 million people would get coverage through the marketplaces next year.

Administration officials defended the slow growth in the marketplaces, noting that as the number of Americans lacking insurance goes down, reaching the remaining ones is difficult.

“We believe 10 million is a strong and realistic goal,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “We’ve seen high levels of satisfaction with the marketplace and expect the vast majority of our current customers will re-enroll.”

But the lower projected enrollment will likely fuel criticism from Republican opponents of the health care law, who continue to argue that it should be repealed.

Administration officials and other supporters of the law counter that the slow enrollment growth partially reflects some of the law’s success.