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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.