President Barack Obama’s national healthcare program signed up more than 7 million people by the end of March, the president said on Tuesday, notching a rare victory after a months-long, glitch-filled rollout of the law.
“This law is doing what it’s supposed to do,” said the President in Rosa Garden event Tuesday.
“It’s helping people from coast to coast, all of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law or try to repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative so hard to understand.”
Nevertheless, Obama claimed victory at a White House ceremony, saying the program approved by Congress in 2010 – with no Republican support and vilified relentlessly by the GOP as government overreach – has been a force for good.
“The law’s not perfect,” Obama said. “We’ve had to make adjustments along the way. The implementation, especially with the website, has had its share of problems.”
The enrollment period began anemically in October with a faltering federal website and ended with a crush of people trying to beat Monday’s deadline to get coverage. Not everyone who has selected a health plan has paid for it yet, officials said.
But Obama also said that problems with the site are no longer relevant when it comes to the law’s effectiveness.
“Press, I want you to anticipate, there will be some moment when the website is down, and it will be on all your front pages,” Obama said. “It’s gonna happen. It won’t be news.”
The 7.1 million figure does not include the millions who have signed up for coverage through the law’s Medicaid expansion, which remains accessible after the end of open enrollment to those who qualify.
Congressional Republicans weren’t impressed by the number and were quick to highlight outstanding questions including how many of the enrollees had seen their plans canceled because of the new law; how many people saw their premiums go down, and how many people who selected plans actually completed the process and paid their premiums, says Reuters.
“We don’t know of course, exactly what they have signed up for, we don’t know how many have paid. What we do know is that all across the country our constituents are having an unpleasant interaction with Obamacare,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
“Whether they can sign up for a policy or not, they are discovering, of course, higher premiums, a higher deductible. Many of them are losing their jobs and so it is really is a tragedy for the country both for the healthcare providers and the consumers.”
Obamacare’s primary goal is to reduce the ranks of the 45 million uninsured. It remains to be seen how that figure will be affected, though anecdotal evidence suggests many have enrolled. Until now, many Americans with pre-existing conditions had to pay sky-high prices for insurance, if they could get any at all. Often, insurers branded them “uninsurable.”
The Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed in 2010 without GOP support, is considered Obama’s signature domestic initiative.