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Obamacare has its sixth anniversary Wednesday and the White House is declaring victory over critics who said it would fail and multiple lawsuits seeking to have it declared unconstitutional.
President Barack Obama signed the law, known formally as the Affordable Care Act, on March 23, 2010 after a big fight with Congress. Democrats held a slim majority at the time and passed the law without a single Republican vote.
Despite dozens of votes, a Congress now controlled by Republicans has been unable to muster enough to repeal the law with enough of a margin to override a veto by Obama.
Obama says the law it’s done what it was designed to do.
“Thanks to this law, 20 million more Americans now know the security of having health insurance, and our uninsured rate is below ten percent for the first time on record,” he said in a statement.
“Critics said this law would destroy jobs and cripple the economy, but in fact just the opposite has happened. Our businesses have added jobs every single month since I signed it into law,” Obama added.
“The unemployment rate has dropped from almost 10 percent to 4.9 percent. Thanks in part to this law, health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years.”
"Now almost 140 million Americans are guaranteed free preventive care, like certain cancer screenings and vaccines."
Outside experts can confirm most of Obama’s claims.
More than 14 percent of Americans were uninsured in 2013 before the health care law's big coverage expansion. That share dropped to 9 percent last year.
Obamacare takes several roads to getting more Americans covered by health insurance. It offers private health insurance via online marketplaces called exchanges, often with a very substantial federal subsidy to pay the premiums.
It encourages states to expand their Medicaid programs and about half of the states have done so. And it imposes strict rules on health insurers that forbid them to drop sick, expensive clients and requiring them to accept even people with pre-existing conditions.
“As many as 129 million people with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage or charged more as a result,” Obama said.
“Those with private insurance got an upgrade as well: now almost 140 million Americans are guaranteed free preventive care, like certain cancer screenings and vaccines,” he added
The law also allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they are 26.
“After nearly a century of effort, and thanks to the thousands of people who fought so hard to pass and implement this law, we have at last succeeded in leaving our kids and grandkids a country where pre-existing conditions exclusions are a thing of the past, affordable options are within our reach, and health care is no longer a privilege, but a right,” Obama said.
"Health care is no longer a privilege, but a right.”
The critics are unlikely to stop, however. Many people complain the law has pushed their health insurance companies to drop certain plans, giving lie to Obama’s claim that people who like their plans can always keep them.
Other complain they don’t have affordable choices in the states and counties where they live. Small businesses say the law burdens them without providing enough of a subsidy to make up for their expenses.
In return for many of the new rules on who they must cover, insurance companies demanded that almost everyone be required to have health insurance. But they don’t all offer a range of plans in all states and counties and some can be pricey.
And the law has done little to simplify the process of choosing health insurance. People still struggle to find out which drugs are covered by a plan up front and complain they get surprised by out-of-network bills when they do get care.
The Supreme Court hears yet another challenge to the law Wednesday, this one from employers who pay directly for health coverage and who want to be exempt from requirements that they pay for birth control for employees.