Vice President Joe Biden surprised no one on Wednesday when he said Obamacare would probably not reach 7 million enrollees. "We may not get to 7 million, but if we get to 5 or 6 million that’s a hell of a start,” Biden said, according to the Associated Press. This is something we've known for a while, and the Obama administration has been actively preparing for that, especially by switching its focus from 7 million to young invincibles. "In terms of how effective the marketplaces function, the makeup, the mix of the population that enrolls is more important that the total number," press secretary Jay Carney said last month. Even when the administration managed to exceed its enrollment benchmark in January, something Democrats celebrated, it didn't seem likely it would make up the ground lost in October and November.
Depending on where one falls on the political spectrum, this was either managing expectations, an admission, or a sign of the end times. NewsBusters called out mainstream media sites like ABC and NBC for not reporting on his comments — only CBS did, and not for long. Fox News' Martha MacCallum tweeted:
Uh-oh Joe! Biden admits they may not make it to 7 million in ACA by 3/31, and by the way - how many of them paid?— martha maccallum (@marthamaccallum) February 20, 2014
She has a point. The main thing to consider is that, even if the Obama administration gets to 7 million by its own count, that number includes people who haven't paid for insurance yet. But that, too, isn't news. As The New York Times found last week, some insurers are reporting that about 20 percent of their new customers have not paid their premiums. At some point the government will be expected to release an adjusted number, and as National Journal pointed out, that's when the lowering of expectations will come in handy. Democrats don't expect long term political consequences, and Republicans will argue the law didn't live up to expectations.
The one bright spot for Democrats is that Obamacare, even an unpleasant drop in the number of enrollments in April, won't ruin the 2014 primaries. The bad news is that other factors, like voting trends and low turnout rates from Democrats, might.