After six tumultuous months, open enrollment on the new Obamacare marketplaces comes to a close. Once enrollment is over, a look at the marketplaces will give the nation a better picture of how well the Affordable Care Act is functioning. It's already perfectly clear, though -- to voters and lawmakers alike -- that the law is a work in progress.
The first few months of open enrollment were disastrous, after HealthCare.gov -- the site that serves as the Obamacare portal for 36 states -- was launched with major technical problems. Still, the administration says it has largely recovered, with more than 6 million Americans enrolling in private insurance as of Thursday.
The public has noticed the improved enrollment process, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday. While just 12 percent of Americans said in December that the launch of the new marketplaces has gone well, 26 percent say so now.
However, just 5 percent say the launch has gone very or extremely well. Moreover, only 26 percent of Americans said they support the Affordable Care Act, while 43 percent are opposed to it. The poll, conducted March 20-24, has a 3.4 percent margin of error.
As many as seven in 10 Americans said in the AP poll that the health law will continue to be implemented but with changes -- 42 percent said the changes would be minor, while 30 percent said they expect to see major changes.
Ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans are still calling for the law's repeal -- some more bluntly than others. Republican Will Brooke, who's running to replace retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., released a campaign video last week in which he literally shoots through a printed-out copy of the Affordable Care Act. His bullets, however, can't fully penetrate the lengthy law.
"It looks like we'll have to resort to more extreme measures to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with a market-based solution," Brooke says, throwing the papers into a wood chipper.
Democrats are trying to keep the midterm campaigns focused on the economy, but they've acknowledged they can't ignore the controversy over the Affordable Care Act. Many vulnerable Democrats are backing bills to reform the law.
On Thursday, five Democratic senators and one independent who caucuses with the Democrats put forward a series of bills that would modify the law. For instance, the Expanded Consumer Choice Act would add a new lower cost, high-deductible option to the Obamacare marketplaces called the "Copper Plan." Currently, the marketplaces include Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze options. The six senators backing the reforms are Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Angus King, Ind.-Maine; and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Even the Obama administration has acknowledged the law is a work in progress, making several adjustments to the new rules. Last week, for instance, administration officials announced that they would allow people to finish the Obamacare enrollment process on HealthCare.gov past March 31, so long as they initiated the process before the deadline. Some states running their own Obamacare marketplaces have decided to follow suit, but others have not.
In the meantime, the administration has been engaged in a last-minute push to get people enrolled ahead of the deadline. Some efforts -- such as a Buzzfeed "listicle" called "7 Reasons Why Vice President Biden Thinks You Should Get Covered By March 31" -- have been directed specifically at young adults, a key demographic.
Other efforts have focused on getting people to enroll in certain key states with large potential marketplaces. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attended an enrollment event in the Austin area of Texas on Friday, and on Saturday, she attended an enrollment event in Miami, Fla.