Just 106,185 Americans successfully enrolled in health coverage in October. The administration had hoped to get half a million people signed up in
To head off a revolt among lawmakers,
Administration officials also sought to reassure doubters that the online marketplaces created by the law would be viable, emphasizing strong consumer interest in shopping for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
Nationwide, nearly 1.1 million people have been approved to get insurance through one of the new marketplaces but have not yet chosen a plan, the Department of Health and Human Services reported. An additional 396,000 have qualified for
The Obama administration hopes to enroll 7 million people in new state-based marketplaces by the March 31 deadline.
But whether the administration can hold nervous Democrats in line much longer is unclear.
Anxious congressional Democrats have become increasingly panicked by the problematic debut of the president's signature domestic policy achievement as they head into the 2014 election.
"What it shakes my confidence in is the ability to pull it off, which is essential to this whole thing," he said. "I can go out and debate the substance of this with anybody. I can't defend or debate the programming, or our inability to make this thing work the way it was promised it would work."
Democratic worries have been galvanized by the insurance policy cancellations, which conflict with a promise Obama repeatedly made that people would be able to keep plans they liked.
Republicans have promised to make Obamacare a defining issue in next year's campaigns.
House Republicans will press forward Friday with a vote that will be tough for many Democrats to oppose. The bill from Rep.
Democratic uneasiness was underscored when Rep.
The Obama administration has resisted pressure to make substantive changes to the law, arguing that the program is beginning to work.
"In every part of our country, Americans are very interested in the affordable health coverage that is being offered through the marketplace and through Medicaid," Health and Human Services Secretary
Sebelius also expressed confidence that as the healthcare.gov website is fixed, more Americans would sign up. "You don't have to pay until Dec. 15" to get coverage next year, she said. "And insurance … is very different than buying a toaster. People want to make sure their doctor is in their network. They want to see what kind of benefits they have."
White House spokesman
Senate Majority Leader
One potential fix would make it easier for insurers to extend health plans beyond the end of the year. Several insurers have already taken steps to keep customers for a few more months into 2014.
Even as the White House moved to reassure nervous allies, however, administration officials offered conflicting views on whether they would meet their pledge to hit a Nov. 30 deadline for repairing the troubled website that has blocked many Americans from shopping for health coverage.
Todd Park, the administration's chief technology officer, testified at a House hearing Wednesday that he could not guarantee the White House would meet its self-imposed deadline. "The team is working incredibly hard to meet that goal," Park said when asked whether the site would be fully working by the deadline.
But at the White House, Carney said that "the site will be working smoothly for the vast majority of users by the end of the month."
The website's problems have clearly had a major impact on enrollment, the figures released Wednesday indicate. Three-quarters of the people who successfully enrolled in health coverage used state-based marketplaces rather than the troubled federal healthcare.gov site.
The federal site is the portal for residents in 36 states that have asked the federal government to operate their marketplaces.
There have been fewer problems in the marketplaces operated by the 14 states that are running their own marketplaces. Two of those states — California and New York — accounted for half of all enrollees in October.
Getting 7 million people enrolled next year is viewed as crucial to ensuring that the insurance pools have adequate numbers of healthy consumers to balance the expected influx of sick Americans who are eager to get health coverage.
Consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up for insurance if they want to be covered on Jan. 1.
The open enrollment period under the law runs until March 31, however, giving consumers almost three more months in 2014 to select a plan and not be penalized for lacking health coverage.
Health policy experts have noted that enrollment is often slow at the start of a new government program.