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8m Americans have signed up for healthcare
President Barack Obama said that 8 million Americans have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and called on Republicans to abandon what he described as “endless, fruitless” attempts to unravel his signature health reforms.
Congressional budget forecasters had predicted that about 7 million people would enrol through the act's healthcare exchanges. The administration surpassed that benchmark despite disastrous technical problems that afflicted the central healthcare website, rendering the insurance exchanges practically unusable at its launch in October last year.
Obama used Thursday’s announcement at the White House to implore Republicans to move on. “I know that every American isn’t going to agree with this law," he said. "I think we can agree it is well past time to move on as a country, and refocus our energies on the issues the American people are most concerned about.”
House Republicans have held more than 50 symbolic votes to repeal the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, passed almost four years ago.
GOP strategists have have already made Obamacare the focus of two election campaigns, in 2010 and 2012, and are planning to campaign heavily on the issue in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.
Political analysts are divided over the impact the ACA will have on the Republican campaign to take control of the Senate. However, Democrats hope the unexpected turnaround in enrolment figures will undermine Republican attempts to focus on an issue many voters say they are growing tired of.
The president made a similar case during an upbeat speech after the formal enrolment period closed on 31 March, when about 7.1 million people had signed up. He repeatedly urged the country to move on last week, when announcing the departure of his health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.The extra 900,000 enrolees over the past two weeks were the result of a decision by Sebelius to extend the enrolment period for people who had trouble signing up because of the failing website.
A crucial determinant of the ACA’s success will be the extent to which young and healthy people enrol for new healthcare plans. Obama said 35% of those who signed up belonged to the crucial 35-and-under demographic.
The White House later said that 28% are between 18 and 34, figures that were “virtually the same youth percentage” that signed up under the Massachusetts healthcare system upon which Obamacare is loosely modelled.
Republicans say the top-line figures for enrolment announced by the administration in recent days are misleading, because the administration has not said how many of those who have signed up for insurance closed the deal by paying their first month’s premiums.
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