Carney Calls Obamacare Enrollment Numbers ‘Rough Figures’


White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was questioned during Friday’s press briefing over a memo released Thursday night that said only six people had enrolled in Obamacare on its first day.

The memo, released by House Government Oversight and Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), was obtained from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) twice a day war room meetings. The numbers seem to discredit CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner’s testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee where she said such information would not be available until mid-November.

When asked whether the number of 6 enrollees was accurate, Carney responded, “I think these are rough figures,” and that accurate numbers could only be compiled by mid-November. Below is a transcript of the exchange:

Q: Do you know whether the numbers from this war room meeting are accurate, six —

MR. CARNEY: I think I — HHS has put out a statement, and I think it’s been available since yesterday, on that and where they believe it comes from. I think these are rough figures, notes that were sort of a snap in time. I think as the secretary testified in a hearing, a lengthy hearing, the other day, you know, we’re going to assemble accurate data and provide it monthly.

I think that one of the reasons why it’s important to do it on a monthly basis is to make sure that the data is checked and is accurate. Remember it’s coming in from a variety of places, both via the website and via — from states who are running their own exchanges, from applicants who go through mail or go through in-person centers or through the call centers. So, you know, I would refer you to HHS or CMS for more on that.

And I think that the whole point, regardless of how specifically accurate those numbers turn out to be, is that we know and acknowledge that the website has been a problem.

Q: So you don’t think —


Q: Excuse me.

MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Q: You don’t think there’s a transparency problem for the administration when —

MR. CARNEY: I think what Secretary Sebelius has said and I’ve said and others have said is that we will provide enrollment figures on a — on a monthly basis, which is entirely consistent with the kind — with the way that other programs have provided information. And the reason to do that is because we want to make sure it’s accurate. And in this case, because the data is coming in from different places, you need to verify it and make sure that it reflects what’s actually happening. And we will do that.

And look, let me just tell you now, November 1st, we don’t expect those numbers to be very high. And we never did, but they’re going to be even lower because of the challenges we’ve had with the website. You know, I think if Massachusetts is the precedent that makes sense to look at and you look at what happened in the first month of enrollment in Massachusetts in what turned out to be a very successful enrollment period, you’ll see that the first month is going to be slow as people begin to familiarize themselves with the options available to them and then make the choices that they want to make when it comes to their health care.