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President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House about the Affordable Care Act. The deadline to sign up for health insurance passed at midnight Monday night.
President Barack Obama reveled in the last-minute success of the new health insurance exchanges Tuesday, confirming that more than 7 million people have signed up for new plans, a million of them in March alone, and attacking the law’s critics.
“This law has made our health care system a lot better. A lot better,” Obama said at a White House briefing. “Regardless of your politics, or your feelings about the law or your feelings about me, that is something that is good for the economy.”
Monday was the deadline for people to at least get started in the process of enrolling for health insurance on the new exchanges. People who have not at least started will have to wait until November to enroll for 2015, unless they have a major life event such as losing a job or getting married.
Republicans have ceaselessly attacked the 2010 Affordable Care Act, voting more than 50 times in the House of Representatives to repeal it. But the Democratic-controlled Senate has ensured the bills have gone nowhere.
Obama acknowledged the glitch-ridden rollout of the exchanges last October and the many adjustments his administration has had to make to the law’s provisions.
"The law is not perfect. We have had to make adjustments along the way. And yes, at times this reform has been contentious and confusing,” Obama said.
“Change is hard. Fixing what’s broken is hard,” he said. “But this law is doing what it’s supposed to do,” he added.
“I (have) got to admit I don’t get it, why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance?” he asked. “Why are they so mad about the idea of someone having health insurance? Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels. Armageddon has not arrived,” he said to laughter.
“But the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
The Census Bureau estimates that 47 million Americans went without health insurance last year, more than 15 percent of the population. The Affordable Care Act seeks to change that by providing federally subsidized insurance on the online exchanges.
Some states are also expanding the federal-state Medicaid insurance plan for people with low incomes and the administration anticipates that millions will be covered that way. In addition, the 2010 Affordable Care Act sets up strict new rules for new insurance policies that start in 2014.
Insurers may no longer turn people away because of pre-existing conditions, they may not cap coverage and they must pay for certain “essential” health needs, including cancer screening and vaccinations. Health experts believe many more Americans will get new policies under these rules.
First published April 1 2014, 1:46 PM
Maggie Fox is senior health writer for NBC News and TODAY, writing top news on health policy, medical treatments and disease.
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She's a former managing editor for healthcare and technology at National Journal and global health and science editor for Reuters based in Washington, D.C. and London.
She's reported for news agencies, radio, newspapers, magazines and television from across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe covering news ranging from war to politics and, of course, health and science. Her reporting has taken Maggie to Lebanon, Syria and Libya; to China, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan; to Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia and to Ireland and Northern Ireland and across the rest of Europe.
Maggie has won awards from the Society of Business Editors and Writers, the National Immunization Program, the Overseas Press Club and other organizations. She's done fellowships at Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland.