Obamacare Open Enrollment Closes, Midterms Open Season Begins

Though Maine Senator Angus King (I-ME) would like Americans to believe “there’s no such thing as Obamacare,” the reality of the law’s individual mandate seems to have finally hit millions of Americans who overwhelmed the enrollment offices and maxed out Healthcare.gov’s 50,000 simultaneous user capacity over the weekend in attempts to get signed up.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the final weekend of open enrollment (at least officially, due to the administration’s unilateral decision to allow late applications) saw some enrollment offices “strained” with more potential enrollees than they could handle, long lines, and in some cases the need for extra security to deal with the crowds. Meanwhile Healthcare.gov maxed out its simultaneous user capacity (50,000) between 4pm to 6pm EST Friday, requiring many users to log on at lower traffic hours. Federal officials estimated that the site had two million visitors over the weekend.

While the online exchange held up well enough, some enrollment centers struggled to handle the surge:

In Silver Spring, Md., hundreds of people lined up hours before a Montgomery County health service center opened at 10 a.m. Saturday to help people sign up on the state's problem-plagued insurance exchange. Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county's health department, distributed dozens of pink tickets to secure enrollment help at about 6:30 a.m. [...]

Long waits to reach a federal call center for help also frustrated some applicants. Federal officials said the center received about 270,000 calls Saturday from people trying to apply by phone or resolve problems with their online application.

Some state exchanges likewise experienced a last-minute influx of enrollees, WSJ reporting that New York’s state exchange had nearly 100,000 sign up in the final week, while Kentucky had 28,000 enrollments between Monday and Friday.

It remains to be seen how this eleventh-hour surge will impact Obamacare’s dismal poll numbers, which have recently hit a new low. A new AP poll found only 26% of Americans viewed the law favorably and 72% expected either minor or major changes to the law.

The widespread unpopularity of the law has spurred infighting among the Democrats, who are struggling with how to approach the deeply troubled law in the midterm elections. Over the weekend, Bill Clinton encouraged Democrats to stand firm, and “not run from a fight,” while Democrat-aligned Senator Angus King (I-ME) declared to Fox News’ Chris Wallace that “there’s no such thing as Obamacare.”

However, with the cratering poll numbers and the ominous results of the Sink-Jolly special election in Florida (which even Clinton could not rescue), many Democrats are distancing themselves from the law as much as possible.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have already begun directing their campaigns at the beleaguered healthcare law. Florida’s Jolly centered many of his attacks on Sink around her (tepid) support of Obamacare. In Alabama, Republican Will Brooke, running for the seat of retiring Spencer Bachus (R-AL), has created a stir with his new campaign video (above) in which he actually fires rounds into a hard copy of the ACA to demonstrate its impenetrable length.   

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