Six months after its troubled rollout, more than 7 million people have enrolled in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama announced Tuesday at the White House.
“Despite several lost weeks out of the gate because of problems with the website, 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces,” Obama said, receiving sustained applause.
“Under this law, the share of Americans with insurance is up and the growth of health care costs is down, and that’s good for our middle class and that’s good for our fiscal future,” Obama said, noting that along with the 7 million enrollees, millions of people have benefited from Medicaid expansion, preventive coverage, and a provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.
The latest figure represents the administration’s original enrollment goal. Enrollment surged in the days leading up to the March 31 deadline. The White House announced on March 27 that more than 6 million people had begun the enrollment process, meeting the health care program’s point of sustainability as determined by the Congressional Budget Office.
“No, the Affordable Care Act hasn't completely fixed our long-broken health care system, but this law has made our health care system a lot better," Obama said.
He addressed Republican opposition to the law, calling out governors who have refused to expand Medicare in their states.
“You know, in the end, history is not kind to those who would deny Americans their basic economic security,” Obama said, noting that the “tall tales” of the dangers of Obamacare “have been debunked.”
“I will always work with anyone who is willing to make this law work even better. But the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” Obama added, laying out a rallying cry his administration hopes Democrats will echo ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
White House photographer Pete Souza tweeted a photograph of the president and aides in the Oval Office earlier Tuesday learning that enrollment surpassed the landmark 7 million figure.
Three million people visited Healthcare.gov and 1 million people phoned the call center by 8 p.m. on March 31, the final day of open enrollment, an official from the Department of Health and Human Services told NBC News Tuesday, adding that it was a “record-breaking day of operations.”
Those who have started the enrollment process will have a grace period through mid-April to complete their registration, while the otherwise uninsured will face a tax penalty of $95 for an adult (to a max of $285 per family) or, if it is higher, 1% of an individual’s gross income (to a max of the national average for a bronze-level coverage plan).
At around midnight on March 31, the marketplace enrollment system went offline; the site went back online on Tuesday morning with informational content and a link for users with special circumstances like a marriage or job loss to enroll outside of the open enrollment period. The call center will continue to operate 24/7 to assist consumers with their insurance, the official added.
The end of open enrollment caps a weeks-long media blitz that included the president’s appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’ show and actor Zach Galifianakis’s web series “Between Two Ferns,” as well as a March Madness-style bracket allowing readers to vote on the best reasons to get covered. The White House pushed to engage younger, healthier people in order to offset the costs of insuring older people who typically require more care. On Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told The Huffington Post that they “definitely saw that Galifianakis bump” in enrollments.