Phil Schiliro thinks Obamacare can make a historic comeback.
The former aide to President Obama was brought back to the White House last month to help oversee the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. He’s unfazed about the website glitches that plagued the initial launch of the program and remains confident that it will help millions obtain affordable health coverage.
“It got off to a very bad start with the website in October and November, and that was very discouraging to people,” he said in an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos.
Schiliro compared the state of Obama’s health law to the outcome of last weekend’s NFL playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs, in which the Colts overcame a four-touchdown deficit in the second half to win the game.
“But in a lot of ways, it’s like a football game,” he added. “You can have a bad first half and a good second half and that’s what matters. It’s how you end the game … Nobody’s going to remember them behind. In years to come, they won’t remember the bad website in the beginning.”
The law’s rocky rollout made it difficult for people to sign up for health insurance under the law. And it posed political problems for Obama and Democrats heading into this year’s midterm elections.
Schiliro was instrumental in the passage of the law. He was brought back amid a White House staff shake up to help coordinate agencies implementing the law, provide reassurance to concerned Democratic lawmakers, and fend off repeal attempts from Republicans.
The aide touted enrollment figures: Over 2 million people have signed up for coverage on the exchanges and more than 4 million have signed up for Medicaid. About 3 million people under the age of 26 have maintained coverage by being allowed to remain on their parents’ plans.
He also waved off criticism from Republicans — and some Democrats — over cancellation notices that insurance companies sent to millions of people due to the new law.
“People received cancellation notices,” he said. “That doesn’t mean their insurance was canceled. In most cases, the insurance companies renewed their insurance. In other cases, they went to the exchange and and they found that they could get a much better deal than their existing plan.”
Schiliro said that the law's benefits, like increasing competition among health plans, outweigh any flaws.
“I think absolutely it’s a success," he said.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.