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Major Garrett Calls WH Out for Backing Away from Obamacare Enrollment Goals

• January 6, 2014 2:16 pm

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White House press secretary Jay Carney appeared to further back away from the Obama administration's previously stated goal of enrolling 7 million people in Obamacare by March 2014 Monday in the White House press conference.

CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett questioned Carney on why the administration now contends the overall demographic mix of Obamacare enrollees is more important than the actual enrollment number. Garrett cited a number of administration officials including HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner who have repeatedly embraced the 7 million target.

Carney deflected, characterizing the administration's goal of 7 million people as a "CBO figure" and not necessarily requisite for insurance markets to function properly.

Garrett followed up with a direct quote from Sebelius in which she unequivocally stated "I think success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014."

Full exchange:

MAJOR GARRETT: You just said that the aggregate number at the end of March is less important than the demographic mix. Why is the administration backing away from the 7 million — 7 million-person enrollment figure that Kathleen Sebelius, Marilyn Tavenner and various other incarnations said was a goal and a legitimate goal and a reachable goal?

JAY CARNEY: What I would say, Major, is that the 7 million estimate was a CBO figure from earlier this year on how many people they thought would come in during the first enrollment period. But some —

GARRETT: (Off mic) —

CARNEY: Hold on — some estimates were lower and some were higher. This is the first time that this has been done, obviously, so it's hard to predict what that number would be.

It's important to understand that it is not — that there's not some magic number: 6,999,999 and the system collapses; one more than that and it functions perfectly. The issue, obviously, is there has to be some volume — some estimates have been as low as 2 million — but what that make-up looks like, both demographically and geographically. So all of these issues are important.

So we're not — we're not — we're not backing away from a number that we didn't put out originally. I think that others noted that 7 million is a fine target but that that will not determine whether the marketplaces function effectively. But the issue is —

GARRETT: But I mean Kathleen Sebelius said on September 30th — this is a direct quote — I think success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.

CARNEY: Look, I think —

GARRETT: This sounds like she's embracing that, not just conceptually, but she said that's what success looks like.