A surge of sign-ups on the last day for open enrollment in President Obama's health care initiative, one of the cornerstones of his presidency, brought the total number of enrolled beyond the White House’s original target of 7 million people.
President Obama stood on the White House lawn a day after the deadline for Americans to enroll in the Affordable Care Act, proud to announce that some 7.1 million uninsured now have health care, an achievement that many Republicans fought desperately to stop. The Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed in 2010 without GOP support, is considered President Barack Obama's signature domestic initiative.
"I don't get it," Obama said in the Rose Garden. "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? 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. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans, and in the coming years it will help millions more."
The Healthcare.gov website got off to a shaky start after being launched in October. Many users could not gain access to the site, rendering it useless in the first few weeks. But the administration fixed the glitches and enrollment picked up.
In the final weeks of the enrollment period, the administration pulled out all the stops, including more than 400 interviews, celebrity and athlete endorsements and heavy use of social media to engage a younger audience. Not to mention the president's wildly popular appearance on the Internet cult mock-talk show, Between Two Ferns, during which comedian Zach Galifianakis and the president traded barbs, which resulted in 33 million views.
Obama acknowledged during his speech that the law and the rollout weren’t perfect, but said that the first six months had seen improvement and more importantly, were "a step forward."
"Bottom line is this: Under this law the share of Americans with insurance is down and the growth of the cost of health care is down," Obama said.
The president joked with the media that there would still be glitches to the site and that it didn't need to be front-page news. He also made clear that the 7.1 million people who signed up for health care signaled a success, when just days before it seemed like an unreachable goal.
"The Affordable Care Act is here to stay," Obama declared in a feisty tone.