While triumphantly announcing that the White House had reached its goal of enrolling 7 million people on the new exchanges, the president slipped in a not-so-subtle message to congressional Republicans who are still working to dismantle his law—cut your losses and move on.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden flanked by lawmakers and staff who helped craft the law, President Obama declared, “The debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” Obama added that repealing it would be detrimental to the millions of Americans already benefiting from his signature health care law.
Beyond the 7 million Americans signed up for coverage through the exchanges, 4.5 million previously uninsured people have gained insurance through the law’s Medicaid expansion and another 3 million young people have remained on their parents’ policies.
"This law is doing what it's supposed to do. It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast. All of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people…or repeal the law...so hard to understand," Obama 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 folks having health insurance?"
New research, however, suggests that of the 7 million sign ups, only one third, about 2.3 million, were previously uninsured, according to the Rand Corporation.
Obama's message was aimed at House Republicans who have voted at least 51 times to repeal or dismantle the law, which carries a price tag of $1.5 trillion over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his budget blueprint for 2015, which includes a full repeal of the law. Following the president’s speech, House Speaker John Boehner vowed that the GOP would continue working to get rid of Obamacare.
"Despite the White House 'victory lap,' this law continues to harm the American people," House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel told Fox News.
On Monday, Boehner told reporters that the “House Republicans will continue to work to repeal this law.”
"Millions of Americans are seeing their premiums rise, not the lower prices the president promised. Many small businesses are afraid to hire new workers, instead cutting hours and dropping health coverage for existing employees. Many Americans can no longer see their family doctor, despite the pledge no one would lose access to their physician. Seniors are feeling the impact, losing their Medicare Advantage plans the president promised they could keep. And taxpayers are being forced to pick up an unaffordable tab."
The GOP’s continued to try to repeal the law comes just as Obamacare’s popularity is rising. A new Washington Post –ABC News poll found that for the first time ever, support of the law outweighed opposition.
Of course, the poll’s findings aren’t divisive—49 percent support the law, while 48 percent oppose it. Still, it is significant because it shows that Obamacare’s popularity is on the rise, especially ahead of the midterm elections.
“Those who base their entire political agenda on repealing it have to explain why we should go back to the days when seniors pay more for prescriptions or women had to pay more than men for coverage…Back to the days when Americans with pre-existing conditions were out of luck,” Obama said. "That's exactly what would happen if they repeal this law. Millions of people who now have health insurance would not have it."
The administration views the latest enrollment figures as a major victory, after it was embarrassed early on by the law’s nightmarish rollout, plagued with technical glitches, cancelled policies and delays.
Still, it is unclear how many of these new enrollees have paid for their policies. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius cited insurer estimates Monday that reveal about 10 to 20 percent of enrollees have not paid for their plans. These people will not ultimately be covered under the law.
The president said, “The law is working the way it’s supposed to.” He acknowledged that it would continue to have some flaws down the road.
“The Affordable Care Act hasn’t completely fixed our long-broken health care system, but it has made our health care system a lot better,” Obama said.
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