Obama health law posts solid sign-ups despite GOP repeal vow

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2016 file photo, the HealthCare.gov 2017 web site home page as seen in Washington. The Obama administration says 11.5 million people have enrolled for coverage under the president's health care law as of Dec. 24. That's about 290,000 more sign-ups than last year at the same time, despite the Republican vow to repeal "Obamacare." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress may be moving to repeal “Obamacare,” but millions of people are still signing up. The administration said Tuesday that 11.5 million enrolled nationwide through Dec. 24, ahead of last year’s pace.

Administration officials said about 290,000 more people have signed up than at the same time last year, evidence that the Affordable Care Act is on sound footing despite rising premiums, dwindling choice and healthy people holding back from getting coverage.

While acknowledging what they call “headwinds,” administration officials said the latest numbers refute claims by GOP leaders that “Obamacare” is in a “death spiral” and about to collapse because of its own problems. Among the Republicans making such claims are President-elect Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“This market is not merely stable; it is on track for growth,” said Aviva Aron-Dine, a senior adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. “Today we can officially pronounce these death spiral claims false.”

The administration has set a goal of 13.8 million people signed up for coverage in 2017 by the time open enrollment ends on Jan. 31. Officials believe a strong finish will bolster the case for preserving President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, largely responsible for reducing the nation’s uninsured rate to a historic low of about 9 percent.

With the final deadline less than three weeks away, the administration is planning advertising and grassroots outreach to millions of people who qualify for subsidized coverage under the law, but remain uninsured. The health law expanded coverage through a combination of taxpayer-subsidized private insurance and a state option to expand Medicaid for low-income people.

Separately on Tuesday, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation released an analysis that suggests Republican lawmakers face political risks if their repeal drive destabilizes the insurance markets for individuals.

The study found that about 55 percent of “Obamacare” enrollees last year lived in Republican congressional districts. That’s roughly the same proportion as the share of seats held by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Among states that expanded Medicaid, the Kaiser study found that 16 have Republican governors, 14 have Democratic governors, and one has an independent governor. However, the overwhelming majority of individuals who have benefited from the Medicaid expansion are in blue states, including high-population states like California and New York.