Obamacare Clears 7 Million Sign-Ups

President Obama took a victory lap as enrollment cleared a major milestone.

This October 21, 2013 photo shows the US government internet health insurance exchange Healthcare.gov. US President Barack Obama on Monday defended his problem-plagued health reform plan, declaring at a White House event that, despite numerous glitches, the program is already helping many uninsured Americans. 'Let me remind everybody that the Affordable Care Act is not just a website,' Obama said, after the troubled online rollout of the plan. 'It's much more...You may not know it, but you're already benefiting from these provisions in the law.'AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER 
National Journal
Sam Baker
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Sam Baker
April 1, 2014, 10:16 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama took a vic­tory lap Tues­day after an­noun­cing that more than 7 mil­lion people have signed up for health care cov­er­age through the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Roughly 7.1 mil­lion se­lec­ted a plan be­fore the en­roll­ment dead­line, Obama said, fueled by a last-minute surge on Monday. Obama used the an­nounce­ment to cri­ti­cize the law’s Re­pub­lic­an crit­ics, in­clud­ing gov­ernors who have re­jec­ted its Medi­caid ex­pan­sion and mem­bers of Con­gress cam­paign­ing on prom­ises to re­peal it.

“The de­bate over re­peal­ing this law is over. The Af­ford­able Care Act is here to stay,” Obama said in a Rose Garden ad­dress.

The health care law re­mains polit­ic­ally un­pop­u­lar, with pub­lic opin­ion fall­ing along par­tis­an lines, and Demo­crats up for reelec­tion this year have made a point to dis­tance them­selves from Obama­care.

Nev­er­the­less, Obama scol­ded Re­pub­lic­ans for their op­pos­i­tion on Tues­day.

“Why are folks work­ing so hard for people not to have health in­sur­ance?” he said. “Why are they so mad about the idea of folks hav­ing health in­sur­ance?

Clear­ing 7 mil­lion sign-ups is a big polit­ic­al vic­tory for the White House — and the total will likely con­tin­ue to grow be­fore of­fi­cial en­roll­ment num­bers are re­leased later this month.

The 7 mil­lion fig­ure does not in­clude people who en­rolled Monday through state-based ex­changes, White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney said dur­ing his brief­ing Tues­day, and people who were “in line” for the fed­er­al ex­change by mid­night will be al­lowed to com­plete the en­roll­ment pro­cess.

People can also en­roll throughout the year if they be­come eli­gible by way of a change in cir­cum­stances, such as leav­ing a job.

“This law is do­ing what it’s sup­posed to do. It’s work­ing,” Obama said.

Be­fore the dis­astrous Health­Care.gov launch, the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice es­tim­ated that the ex­changes would cov­er 7 mil­lion people this year. CBO down­graded that to 6 mil­lion to ac­count for the web­site’s troubles. And throughout, Re­pub­lic­ans pre­dicted that en­roll­ment would fall short of either ex­pect­a­tion.

The num­ber of people who ac­tu­ally gained cov­er­age through Obama­care’s ex­changes will not be as high as the 7.1 mil­lion total Obama an­nounced Tues­day. That fig­ure refers to the num­ber of people who have se­lec­ted a plan, in­clud­ing those who didn’t go on to pay their first premi­um — the last step to ac­tu­ally get­ting covered.

It’s also not clear how many en­rollees were pre­vi­ously un­in­sured — a key meas­ure of the law’s suc­cess in re­du­cing the num­ber of un­in­sured Amer­ic­ans.

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