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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

President Barack Obama acknowledged again Friday that the White House had fumbled Obamacare's rollout in its early days.

"When it came to the health care rollout, even though I was meeting every other week or every three weeks with folks and emphasizing how important it was that consumers had a good experience and easy experience in getting the information they need and knowing what the choices and options were for them to be able to get high quality affordable health care," Obama said, "the fact is it didn't happen in the first month, first six weeks in a way that was at all acceptable."

"And since I'm in charge, obviously, we screwed it up."

President Barack Obama said Friday that more than 500,000 people have enrolled in health coverage through HealthCare.gov in the first three weeks of December.

That would put the total number of enrollments at more than 1 million, senior administration officials noted to TPM, when added to the reported enrollments on the federal and state websites in October and November.

The December enrollment would mark a significant increase since the administration declared the website fixed: 137,000 people signed up through HealthCare.gov in October and November combined.

The new numbers for HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states, comes after reports of accelerating enrollment at some of the 15 state-run marketplaces. California's marketplace, for example, reported 50,000 in three days this week.

Obama offered the enrollment figure at his end-of-the-year press conference. No official enrollment report has been released.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Friday that the individual mandate should be fully delayed for one year, the day after the Obama administration announced it would exempt people whose policies had been canceled from the penalty.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the same in an earlier statement.

“With this latest delay, the Obama administration is once again admitting that the president’s health care law is unworkable and unaffordable," Boehner said in a statement. "Millions have lost the plans they liked, only to find themselves priced out of new policies with higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs."

"The administration’s action does nothing to address the problems at the center of the president’s health care law, or to help the families suffering its consequences. All Americans deserve a hardship exemption from this train wreck of a law, and a focus on patient-centered reforms that will help lower costs and protect jobs.”

The Obama administration's announcement Thursday night that it would exempt people whose policies have been canceled because of Obamacare from the law's individual mandate was an unexpected move.

The White House had been under fire for months over the widespread reports of canceled policies, but rather than assuage those concerns with the new exemption, it runs the risk of opening one of the law's most important (and most unpopular) features to more political meddling.

Congressional Republicans have already used it as an excuse to call for a blanket delay of the individual mandate, and some of the law's most ardent supporters acknowledge that the administration seems to have cracked open a door that could be difficult to close.

"I think by itself this is a not a huge problem. This group should be relatively small," Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped craft Obamacare, told TPM. "But I think that the administration has to hold the line here. More widespread cracks in the mandate could start to cause enormous problems for insurers."

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After the Obama administration announced Thursday that it would exempt Americans whose health plans had been canceled from Obamacare's individual mandate, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said Friday morning that the mandate should be delayed for everybody for one year.

"Our entire health care system can't be fundamentally changed at any given time subject to the random impulses of President Obama. How can anyone make health care decisions today knowing that the law may be unilaterally changed again tomorrow?" Cantor said in a statement. "Republicans have consistently asked for a one year delay of the mandates for all Americans, and put forward a proposal to allow American families to keep their health plans. The White House actions clearly prove ObamaCare can't work as designed. It's time for ObamaCare to be delayed for all."

There are growing signs at the state level that key health care industry players in the push to expand Medicaid under Obamacare are calling it quits for now, pessimistic about getting new legislation passed in the current political environment.

Support for Medicaid expansion from within the health care industry -- in particular from providers like hospitals, doctors and nursing homes -- is a key part of the coalition that Obamacare advocates have hoped will help eventually turn the tide in the non-expanding Republican-dominated states.

But top officials for powerful trade organizations in three of the largest states not expanding Medicaid under Obamacare told TPM that they have effectively given up that fight until political conditions change, setting their sights on 2015 at the earliest.

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Nearly three-fourths of those who have purchased health insurance on HealthCare.gov since early December were people returning to the site after visiting in October and November, according to senior administration officials.

A survey on the federal website found that 73 percent of those who had completed enrollment in recent weeks said they had first come to the site in the previous two months, officials said. The Obama administration did not declare the site fully fixed until Dec. 1.

The officials touted the figure as evidence that people were giving HealthCare.gov a second chance after its disastrous launch, which had raised questions about whether frustrated consumers would abandon the sign-up process.

"I think we can definitively say that we just haven't seen that," one official said. "Folks have come back, and they're coming back in droves."

The White House wants to tell people in Alabama, Kansas, and Montana in very specific terms what repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean for them.

For example: 141,000 people in Alabama received free preventive care in 2011 and 2012 because of the law; 1.2 million people in Kansas who have pre-existing conditions no longer have to worry about being denied coverage; and more than 13,000 Montanans have received rebates from their insurance company through Obamacare's new rules.

The administration has always based its argument against repeal on those tangible benefits that people have and will receive, but Thursday's 50-state report (below) is an attempt to make that argument hit a little closer to home.

"It’s time for Republicans in Congress to stop refighting old political battles over health care, because the real cost of repeal will hit home for many hardworking American families," the White House said in a statement accompanying the new report.

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When the budget deal cleared the House last week, some might have mistakenly believed that the GOP's fever over Obamacare had at least slightly subsided. Implicit in its passage was a pledge that Republicans would not shut down the government -- again -- over the health care reform law.

And they (probably) won't. But that doesn't mean Congress has arrived at a kumbayah moment after which both sides will work to refine the law with fixes that might appeal to both sides.

No, the Republican repeal crusade isn't over. It's just taken another form.

"Legislating is certainly possible, but we don’t believe the law can be truly 'fixed' -- only scrapped entirely," Brendan Buck, the top spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told TPM. "Our focus will be on building the case for repeal through proper oversight."

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Wednesday that he would introduce a bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with his own set of reforms.

It appears to be the first comprehensive health care reform legislation that McCain has introduced during his three decades in Congress. It is composed of conservative pet policies, such as tax credits for individuals and tort reform to stem medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill comes as Republicans attempt to beat back criticism that they don't have a viable alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

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