Obama: 8M Signed Up for Health Care 04/18 07:07
Eight million people have signed up for health care through new insurance
exchanges and the proportion of younger applicants has increased, President
Barack Obama said Thursday. The enrollments exceeded expectations and offered
new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead of the midterm elections.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eight million people have signed up for health care
through new insurance exchanges and the proportion of younger applicants has
increased, President Barack Obama said Thursday. The enrollments exceeded
expectations and offered new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead
of the midterm elections.
An impromptu appearance in the White House briefing room offered the
president an opportunity to trumpet the new figures, which beat initial
projections by 1 million. With an eye toward November, Obama castigated
Republicans for continuing to seek out every opportunity to thwart the
Affordable Care Act.
"This thing is working," Obama said of his signature domestic achievement.
Touting modest progress on another front, Obama said 35 percent of enrollees
are under 35 years old, suggesting that in the final weeks of enrollment, the
administration managed to sign up higher numbers of younger, healthier people
who are critical to the law's viability.
The most coveted age group comprises those between 18 and 34 years old.
White House officials said that for the 36 states where the federal government
is taking the lead, 28 percent are in that age group --- a step in the right
direction from March, when the administration said just 25 percent were 18 to
In a sharp rebuke to his political opponents, Obama called out states that
have refused to embrace an expansion of Medicaid under "Obamacare," arguing
that their opposition was rooted in nothing more than sheer ideology and
"That's wrong. It should stop," he said. "Those folks should be able to get
health insurance like everybody else."
Although the first year's open enrollment season for the exchanges closed on
March 31, the administration is still tallying the number of total enrollees.
States managing their own exchanges have been slower to report data, and some
Americans who started applications before the deadline were given extra time to
complete their enrollment.
The demographic figures also give Democrats an opportunity to blunt the
pessimism of Republicans, some of whom have accused the White House of "cooking
the books" by announcing large overall enrollment numbers that tell only part
of the story.
"They still can't bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is
working," Obama said. "The longer we see the law benefiting millions of people,
the more we see accusations that the law is hurting people being completely
Democrats have been hoping that better-than-expected results could help
their candidates reclaim the political high ground on "Obamacare" before
Election Day. Seven months out, Democrats are seeking to turn the page on the
law's disastrous debut in October, when HealthCare.gov was virtually unusable.
Obama seemed to affirm that strategy last week when he announced that Health
and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who became the face of the
rollout failure, was stepping down.
Polling shows the law remains unpopular in much of the country, but
Democrats plan to argue that by trying to repeal the law, Republicans are
actively working to take health care away from 8 million Americans.
Although the new figures provide some clarity about how well the exchanges
performed, there are still plenty of unknowns.
Officials haven't released a tally of how many enrollees were previously
uninsured and are thus gaining health care thanks to the law. It's also unclear
how many enrollees sealed the deal by paying their first month's premium to the
Republicans seized on those uncertainties to argue that Obama is hyping
figures that obscure the real damage the law is inflicting --- like higher
premiums, smaller provider networks and canceled policies, according to Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"It's long past time for Washington Democrats to work with us to remedy the
mess they created --- and that means repealing this law and replacing it with
real reforms that actually lower costs," McConnell said.
As Obama's health law begins to look more viable, Democrats have been
seeking to change the political debate from one about repeal to one about
fixing lingering issues with the law.
Obama said it's "absolutely possible" to make improvements, but that it
would require a change of attitude from Republicans. But election-year
posturing and the GOP's reluctance to be seen as embracing "Obamacare" make
than an unlikely proposition.
The president's upbeat assessment came shortly after he and top aides had
separate meetings with leading insurance executives and state insurance
"I think that's a pretty good number in terms of trying to make sure we have
a healthy pool," Montana's insurance commissioner, Monica Lindeen, said of the
surge in younger enrollees.
In other positive news for Obama's health care law, California's state-run
insurance exchange reported Thursday that nearly 1.4 million Californians had
enrolled by the end of open enrollment, besting original projections by almost