White House: 7 million signed up for health care

Ibrahim Hassan, left, a navigator at the Somali Health Solutions office, wraps up MNsure health insurance marketplace enrollment for Ahmed Ali of Hopkins, while another client waits his turn, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)
Ibrahim Hassan, left, a navigator at the Somali Health Solutions office, wraps up MNsure health insurance marketplace enrollment for Ahmed Ali of Hopkins, while another client waits his turn, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration says more than 7 million people signed up for health care through insurance exchanges in a key milestone for the 4-year-old health care law.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the figure was reached by Monday’s midnight deadline for sign-ups.

“The fact that the 7 million number has been reached allows us to step back and look at the sweeping, positive change that the law has ushered in to strengthen health security for every American as they go through life,” Carney said.

It remains unclear how well the Affordable Care Act will work and whether its implementation will see Americans change their views on a law that remains unpopular and widely misunderstood.

About 50 million Americans lacked health care coverage as the law began taking effect, and supporters hope it will significantly reduce the ranks of the uninsured.

But the administration has not said how many of those who already have signed up closed the deal by paying their first month’s premiums. Also unknown is how many were previously uninsured — the real test of Obama’s health care overhaul. In addition, the law expands coverage for low-income people through Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, but only about half the states have agreed to implement that option.

The months ahead will show whether the Affordable Care Act will meet its mandate to provide affordable health care coverage or whether high deductibles, paperwork snags and narrow physician networks make it a bust.

The 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act has been the No. 1 legislative achievement of Obama’s presidency.

Eager to deny Obama any kind of legislative legacy, Republicans have bitterly opposed the law which they say swells big government and represents an unprecedented federal intrusion in the U.S. economy.

After winning control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections, Republicans have voted more than 50 times to revoke or seriously undermine the program, widely known as “Obamacare.” Those bills have never made it to the floor in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The number of people signed up for health insurance could still climb. People who started applying but couldn’t finish before the deadline can have extra time, as do potential enrollees whose special circumstances kept them from meeting the deadline.

Obama plans to present updated numbers during a Rose Garden appearance later Tuesday.

Carney argued that Republicans had run ads against the law, tried to repeal it repeatedly and their determination to do so precipitated a government shutdown last year.

“That effort could not stop this law from working,” he said.

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