White House says 7M signed up for health care

WASHINGTON -- More than 7 million people have signed up for health care coverage through federal and state exchanges created under President Obama's signature health care law, the White House announced Tuesday.

With the announcement that came hours after the March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage, the Obama administration has cleared the initial projection for enrollees set by the Congressional Budget Office --a goal that had seemed out of reach after a rocky launch to the online federal marketplace last fall.

"We surpassed the 7 million mark with the over 200,000 people who enrolled yesterday in states run by the federal government alone," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. "When we get numbers in from the rest of the states and people who are trying to sign up by the deadline and are finishing now, even more people will be covered."

After meeting with Obama at the White House on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cheered the administration crossing what was seen as a crucial threshold for the law.

"Many more people now have affordable, quality health care," Pelosi said.

Obama is set to deliver remarks at 4:15 p.m. in Rose Garden about the Affordable Care Act.

After a surge of last-minute enrollment on Monday -- the technical deadline to sign up for health care or face a penalty -- administration officials began expressing confidence that they would meet or exceed the 7 million mark for signups.

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In recent weeks, the White House had been buoyed by a surge of interest by Americans in the laws as the deadline for signup drew near. There were 2.9 million visits to the website over the weekend, and last week they counted more phone calls from Americans inquiring about signing up for insurance that they saw in all of February.

Last minute consumers overwhelmed the federal web site on deadline day as outages and intermittent delays slowed customers. More than 2 million people visited the web site by Monday evening.

Carney suggested that Obama had a hunch the administration would reach the 7 million mark as Monday approached. Early Tuesday morning, aides confirmed to him during his presidential daily briefing that the goal had been met.

Republicans continued to attack the law on Tuesday, arguing that too little is known about the 7 million who are being counted among the enrolled.

"We don't know of course, exactly what they have signed up for, we don't know how many have paid," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "What we do know is that all across the country our constituents are having an unpleasant interaction with Obamacare. Whether they can sign up for a policy or not, they are discovering, of course, higher premiums, a higher deductible."

The announcement was embraced as hopeful news by Democrats facing reelection in November, who had been feeling the weight of Obama's low popularity numbers and Republican attacks on the law.

But Mo Elleithee, the Democratic National Committee communications director, noted that public opinion over the health care law has slowly been turning in favor of Democrats. On Monday, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that support for the law hit a record high at 49%.

"For years, Republicans have been jumping up and down, breathlessly screaming that the Affordable Care Act would be a 'disaster,' " Elleithee wrote in an e-mail to reporters "Guess what? APRIL FOOL'S! The joke is on them."

Pelosi predicted health care won't hurt Democrats at the polls.

Democrats are "proud" of the law, she said, and "our members are out there on the offensive on this issue."

She said jobs should be the main issue in the congressional elections, and she attacked the new Republican budget, which in part includes the GOP's repeated call to repeal the law.

"Elections are always about jobs," said Pelosi, adding that the health care law will help create jobs.

She said she never worried that law would "collapse." While the website problems were "an embarrassment," Pelosi said, that problem "is over."


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