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HHS chief: Fudged Obamacare enrollment numbers "unacceptable"

The Health and Human Services Department earlier this month told Congress that, prior to the beginning of this year's open enrollment period, there were more than 7 million Americans enrolled in private health insurance plans via Obamacare. However, HHS included about 400,000 standalone dental plans to reach that number, as Bloomberg first reported.

In a chat on Facebook on Thursday, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said the figures were inflated unintentionally.

"This mistake was unacceptable," Burwell said. "I will be communicating that clearly throughout the department. While we understand some will be skeptical, our clarity that this is [a] mistake and the fact that we have quickly corrected the numbers should give people confidence. It is important to continue to focus on the fact that millions of Americans are getting affordable health care."

In reality, about 6.7 million Americans were enrolled in Obamacare plans as of mid-October, not 7.1 million.

While Burwell said the mixup was a mistake, the Republican party has dubbed it another case of "Obamacare obfuscation."

The GOP has come down hard on the administration for recently-surfaced remarks from economist Jonathan Gruber, an Obama ally. Gruber said in 2011 that the administration managed to get the Affordable Care Act through Congress thanks to "the stupidity of the American voter."

The open enrollment period for the second year of Obamacare coverage started last week. Unlike during last year's open enrollment period, HealthCare.gov appears to be running smoothly.

Burwell told Congress this month that somewhere between 9 million and 9.9 million Americans are expected to be enrolled in health coverage through the Obamacare marketplaces in 2015.

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