In a key milestone for the 4-year-old health care law, President Obama announced that 7.1 million people signed up for health care through insurance exchanges, surpassing a threshold once seen as unattainable. Obama said the law has not fixed the health care system but it has made it a lot better, adding that there is no reason to go back, in an apparent reference to Republican efforts to repeal the law.
On March 11, exactly three weeks ago, the Associated Press ran an article on the pace of Affordable Care Act enrollments. The Obama administration was "making steady progress," the piece said, "but the White House needs something close to a miracle to meet its goal of enrolling 6 million people by the end of this month." It was an article congressional Republicans were eager to share and circulate throughout the political world.
A lot can happen in three weeks, even a political miracle.
"The debate over repeal is over," the president said this afternoon, looking about as happy as I've seen him since Election Night 2012. "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay."
The fact that enrollment totals had topped 7 million for the open-enrollment period wasn't entirely new; White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had alerted reporters to the threshold during a briefing a few hours ago.
But it was Obama who announced that the new total actually reached 7.1 million.
Note for context, the original projection from the Congressional Budget Office was for 7 million, but that was downgraded to 6 million when healthcare.gov faltered in October and November, when it seemed 7 million was an overly ambitious pipe dream.
And yet, here we are.
Also note, this isn't over. The 7.1 million refers to those consumers who enrolled through an exchange marketplace, and doesn't include those who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion, through their parents' plans, or through direct enrollment (going around an exchange).
Looking ahead, the open-enrollment period is effectively complete, but Medicaid expansion coverage will continue, so the number of Americans who gain insurance will continue to grow.
And just to close the circle on yesterday's fun, I put together another little chart, in case Fox News wants to use it.