Washington, April 2: President Barack Obama claimed a major victory as over seven million people signed up for medical insurance under his signature healthcare law at the end of the six-month open enrolment period.
After a floundering start marked by computer glitches galore at its October launch, government run health market place saw a major surge as people lacking insurance rushed to beat the Monday mid-night deadline. More than 4.8 million visits were made to HealthCare.gov on Monday alone, officials said.
Taking a victory lap at a White House ceremony Tuesday, Obama said that 7.1 million people had signed up on federal or state exchanges for coverage under the health care law, nicknamed Obamacare, that was passed by the Congress in 2010 without Republican support.
The number of enrolled was 100,000 more than the original target of seven million and over a million more than the revised goal of six million after what Obama called “several lost weeks” due to the glitch-ridden start of the healthcare website.
Calling the healthcare law “a force for good” Obama said it wasn’t perfect, but the overall goal of starting to narrow the gap between those with health coverage and those without it has begun, and millions of Americans are embracing it.
“That’s what the (law) is all about, making sure all of us and all our fellow citizens can count on the security of health care when we get sick,” he said, noting that the “law is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s working.”
The law is good for the country, regardless of politics, and that the numbers show Americans want it and that it’s “here to stay,” he said.
“I don’t get it. Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance? Why are they so mad about the idea of people having health insurance?” Obama asked.
The law, whose primary goal is to reduce the ranks of the 45 million uninsured, also includes expanded Medicaid insurance for the poor in many states, but those participants are not part of the sign-up total.
But Republicans, who have waged a nonstop campaign to repeal or roll back the Affordable Care Act, remained unimpressed.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement that the law “continues to harm the American people” despite Obama’s “victory lap.”
He said costs are not going down, as Obama contends, and people are losing insurance plans they preferred and small businesses are chafing under the law’s requirements.
“That’s why we must replace this fundamentally flawed law with patient-centered solutions that will actually lower health care costs and help create jobs,” Steel said.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)