Age of Diminishing Expectations

Sebelius, White House officials deny ever having Obamacare enrollment goal of 7 million

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other White House officials are trying to distance themselves from their initial stated goal of getting 7 million people to sign up for Obamacare, claiming the figure was merely a Congressional Budget Office prediction.

Yet, Sebelius said success for Obamacare looked like "at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014" during a Sept. 30 interview with NBC. Tuesday, speaking with HuffPostLive, she said the hope to get "7 million was not the administration. That was a Congressional Budget Office prediction."

Obamacare architect Zeke Emanuel told MSNBC on Sept. 30, "On April 1, have we seen over the last six months 7 million sign up or not in the exchanges, and that, I think, is going to be the more relevant date and the relevant number." However, during a Fox News Sunday interview Dec. 8, he also called the figure a CBO projection and not what anyone in the administration said was necessary.

White House press secretary Jay Carney initially said the White House would not change its goal of 7 million in October, but Jan. 6 he said, "We're not backing away from a number we didn't put out" as he, too, said the figure was merely a CBO estimate.

White House aide Phil Schiliro repeated the talking point to MSNBC Dec. 31 when asked about whether reaching the sign-up goal was plausible.

"That was never our target number," he said. "That was a target that was put out by the Congressional Budget Office."

The new expectations emerged after Obamacare's horrific launch, first with a disastrous website rollout, followed by the revelation that President Obama's oft-repeated "keep your plan" promise was false. The pace of enrollment was too slow, and it became clear that the administration's aim was unachievable.

Vice President Joe Biden admitted as much Feb. 19, blaming the sign-up woes on the federal health care website.

"Initially we talked about by the end of this period having 7 million lined up," Biden said. "We may not get to 7, but we're going to get to 5 or 6, and that's a hell of a start."