The federal Obamacare marketplace enrolled more than 217,000 people on its last day of open enrollment, pushing nationwide sign-ups past 7 million, a top White House official said Tuesday
White House Chief Technology Office Todd Park broke the newsat a New Year's Eve-style countdown and champagne toast at midnight Monday to mark the end of open enrollment on the HealthCare.gov marketplace, according to an audio clip posted in a report by the American Urban Radio Networks' White House correspondent.
"Whoo hoo!" people shouted and clapped, as the clock struck midnight at the offices of QSSI, the Columbia, Md.-based company that has been overseeing the repair effort that righted HealthCare.gov after its abysmal initial two months of operation last fall.
Park then said the number "217,176" and explained to people in the office that it was the tally of enrollment applications created over the course of Monday on the federal Obamacare exchange.
"Which is, by a humongous margin, the biggest number ever" for a single day's enrollment on HealthCare.gov, the exchange that sells Obamacare plans in the 36 states not operating their own insurance marketplaces, Park said in the recording.
He noted that the Congressional Budget Office last summer, before the botched launch of the exchange, had estimated that 7 million people would sign up in private insurance sold by the federal and state exchanges.
"And everyone thought that was impossible, especially after we had a little a bit of a rocky start," Park said.
"And I actually am proud to tell y'all, and you're the first to know, that y'all with this day alone, with [federal exchange] alone, have carried the ball over the impossible line," Park said. "We actually exceed the 7-million goal."
The crowd then broke in to cheers again.
They had reason to celebrate. The CBO weeks ago revised its Obamacare enrollment downward to 6 million in recognition of the fact that the first two months of operation of the federal exchange were a disaster in terms of sign-ups.
But last week, the Obama administration announced it already reached 6 million, raising the possibility that it would achieve its original goal by Monday. The administration and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act ramped up their already aggressive efforts to get people to sign up by Monday, by which nearly all Americans must have some kind of health coverage this year or pay a fine next year.
A flood of shoppers inundated HealthCare.gov and other exchanges over the weekend and into Monday.
About 4.8 million people visited HealthCare.gov on Monday alone, along with more than 1 million calls to the site's call center, according to officials.
The deluge slowed down the site during the day, and lead to at least one suspension of application and enrollment functions because of a software problem. HealthCare.gov and several state-run marketplaces, including California and New York, have granted grace periods to people who tried to enroll on their sites but were unable to complete the sign-ups due to such technical issues.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the White House at 4:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday about the Affordable Care Act.
Earlier Tuesday, the president was briefed about Obamacare enrollment numbers in the Oval Office, according to a White House Twitter feed.