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White House: Obamacare enrollment numbers a 'dog bites man' story

4:32 PM, Nov 1, 2013   |    comments
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A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is commonly called, passed in March 2010, went into effect Tuesday at 8am EST. Heavy Internet traffic and system problems plagued the launch of the new health insurance exchanges Tuesday morning. Consumers attempting to log on were met with an error message early Tuesday due to an overload of Internet traffic. AFP PHOTO / Kare

(NBC NEWS) -- The White House dismissed the furor surrounding notes leaked by Republicans which indicated that Healthcare.gov managed to enroll only six Americans in insurance plans during its first day as a "dog bites man" story.

White House press secretary Jay Carney downplayed documents, which purport to showcase the serious problems endured by the online insurance portal after its launch on Oct. 1 launch. Carney called the figures "selected, cherry-picked leaks from Republicans."

"If the implication from this disclosure is that the website wasn't working effectively on Oct. 1, I think that is a dog-bites-man story," Carney said at Friday's White House press briefing.

And Carney said that the administration never expected a rush of initial enrollees, projecting to endure a higher volume of consumers seeking insurance closer to the end of various enrollment deadlines.

"But, it's also important to remember that, setting aside any problems with the website, we knew and told you in advance there would be low enrollment figures initially because we knew that from experience, we saw that in the Massachusetts precedent," Carney said, referencing the slow initial enrollment in the Bay State after it enacted a similar law under Gov. Mitt Romney, R.

The Department of Health and Human Services is slated to release an initial estimate of enrollment figures in the middle of this month. Carney sought to lower expectations for that report, too.

"On Nov. 1, we don't expect those numbers to be very high. And we never did," he said, adding that Healthcare.gov's difficulties would only likely depress enrollment figures further.

"Those are notes. Those are not official documents on enrollment numbers or otherwise," said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which operates the site. "I am saying they are not any official documents."

Republicans have gleefully seized upon the health care portal's struggles as an example of what they say are the broader reform law's problems.

"I don't think the website not being able to sign up six people is a problem with Republicans not liking Obamacare," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Friday on MSNBC. "It has to do with incompetency at HHS and a president who is totally aloof, doesn't know what's going on, and finds out his news at the same time you and I do. That's the problem."

NBC's Maggie Fox contributed reporting.

By Michael O'Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News

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