Chad’s Morning Brief: Obamacare Numbers Lagging, All Eyes on Dewhurst, and Other Top Stories
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of March 12, 2014. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am. Remember, you can listen online at KFYO.com or on your iPhone/Android with the radioPup App.
Over 4 million people have signed up for Obamacare according to FOX News, but that is far short of the administration's goal of having 7 million signed up by the end of the month. Overall, the latest report on Obamacare numbers isn't very good news at all for the President.
In the final stretch of enrolling Americans in ObamaCare, the administration is lagging far behind its own goals -- leaving uncertain whether the program is attracting enough people for the system to work.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that more than 940,000 people signed up in February, bringing the total enrollment number to 4.2 million. That's well short of the unofficial goal of signing up 7 million by the end of open enrollment on March 31.
The numbers renewed calls from Republicans to push off the looming penalty for not buying insurance. And they revived accusations that the administration still is not telling the whole story behind those numbers.
"Given these dismal enrollment numbers, the president needs to work with Congress to get rid of this year's individual mandate penalty," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
Hoping for a surge in the final weeks, administration officials are going to new lengths to promote the law and encourage people to sign up -- including President Obama plugging HealthCare.gov during a YouTube appearance with comedian Zach Galifianakis.
"During this final month of open enrollment our message to the American people is this: you still have time to get covered, but you'll want to sign up today," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement on Tuesday.
The administration recently has backed off the goal of enrolling 7 million by month's end. But the government also is coming up short in attracting young adults into the system. The government wanted roughly 40 percent of enrollees to be between 18 and 34 years old; the latest report shows just a quarter of those who have selected a plan are in that coveted age group.
The government, and the insurance industry, wants to attract a high percentage of young adults in order to offset the costs of taking on older, less-healthy customers. Failure to attract enough younger customers could result in higher premiums for everyone else.
It is possible that many participants could be waiting until the final few days and weeks of the month to enroll -- after March 31, most of those who do not have insurance will be required to pay a penalty. But Republicans were skeptical.
"It seems the president's push to enroll young adults is far too little, too late," Buck said. "The administration won't tell us how many people have actually paid for a plan or how many were previously uninsured. But what we do know is that young adults -- those who the White House repeatedly said are critical -- are deciding the health care law is a bad deal. Now, millions stand to be forced to pay a new tax because of this law."
Eyes on Dewhurst
Pressure has continued to mount on Lt. Governor David Dewhurst to drop out of the runoff election with State Senator Dan Patrick. Yesterday, Todd Staples and Jerry Patterson shared their thoughts on Dewhurst and Patrick. As the Texas Tribune points out, Patterson is still not a fan of Dan Patrick.
Whether incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst can make up for a big primary night loss to challenger Dan Patrick in a May runoff may depend on if he can successfully court the supporters of his two former opponents.
But in interviews on Tuesday, neither Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples nor Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who earned a combined 30 percent of the vote in the March GOP primary for lieutenant governor, were ready to come out in favor of Dewhurst.
Staples said outright that he had decided not to give a nod in the race.
Patterson said he was still making up his mind about whether to endorse Dewhurst, but forcefully attacked Patrick, saying the Houston state senator would take the state backward as lieutenant governor.
"He will wholly be bad for Texas, bad for the Republican Party," Patterson said of Patrick. "We have two choices, and I will categorically tell you I'm not voting for Dan Patrick either in the primary or the general election. I'll vote Libertarian in November if I have to."
In a media phone call last last week, Patrick campaign consultant Allen Blakemore said the campaign would not be fazed by attacks from former candidates in the race. “It’s not something we are particularly worried about," Blakemore said. "Mr. Patterson calling us a liar is probably the nicest thing he’s said about us in months."
Patterson also said Tuesday that he did not believe that Dewhurst — who faces speculation he may withdraw from the race after trailing Patrick by 14 points and clearing just 28 percent of the vote on primary night — would drop out.
"When you're in it, you're in it to the end. And I can almost guarantee it David Dewhurst is not going to drop out," he said.
But Staples, who avoided criticism of either candidate, said he saw a "difficult road ahead" for Dewhurst.
"I think he'd really have to do a strong assessment, really identify the things that he thinks he can make a connection with or make the determination not to move forward," he said. "And I don't think anyone would hold that against him at this point in time if that's the decision he made."
On Tuesday, Dewhurst spokesman Travis Considine said the incumbent would stay in the race.
"Yesterday, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst told supporters at the Northwest Forest Republican Women's Candidate forum that he was excited about the race going into overtime and that he is fully committed to doing what's necessary to achieve victory on May 27," Considine wrote in an email.
The deadline to take a candidate off of the May runoff ballot is Wednesday.
Other Top Stories:
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