The Obama administration on Tuesday starkly warned Republicans against a “repeal-and-delay” strategy on Obamacare as it revealed that more than 11.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance coverage nationally on government-run marketplaces this enrollment season — a slight increase compared to the same time last year.
Administration officials, citing previous third-party analysis, said that 30 million people could lose coverage and individual health plan prices could spike dramatically if Republicans voted to repeal key parts of Obamacare but delayed the repeal for several years to give them time to craft.
“It’s important to remember that repeal-and-delay ultimately means gambling on millions of people’s health care on the assumption Congress will pass a replacement plan,” said Benjamin Wakana, spokesman for U.S. Health and Human Services Department Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
The stakes are too high on moving forward with repeal and not knowing what comes next yet,” Wakana said.
Wakana’s warning came as Obamacare enrollment for 2017 headed into the home stretch, and as GOP leaders in Congress struggled over the question of whether to repeal major parts of the health-care reform law without a replacement plan in place, or repeal and replace at the same time.
The more than 11.5 million person tally is as of Dec. 24, according to data released Tuesday. That number is 286,000 more people than were signed up for Obamacare plans at the same time period during the prior open enrollment.
The largest share of customers came from HealthCare.gov, the federal Obamacare exchange that serves residents of 39 states. The remaining customers came from sign-ups on exchanges run by individual states and the District of Columbia.
Administration officials said the new tallies not only show that claims of the individual insurance market entering a “death spiral” are not true, but that the market, but that the market is growing, despite criticism from Obamacare opponents.
“We’re leaving in place a stable marketplace that’s growing and poised for success,” said Christen Linke Young, principal deputy director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Open enrollment in Obamacare plans continues through Jan. 31. Under Obamacare, most Americans must have some form of health coverage or pay a fine.