April 2, 2014
President Barack Obama says 7.1 million Americans have signed up for mandated health insurance under the new healthcare law.
Monday's deadline for online enrollment saw a surge of consumers applying for health coverage on the federal website Healthcare.gov.
The Obama administration had set an enrollment goal of seven million people, but reaching that number appeared in doubt following the troubled launch of Healthcare.gov in October.
The president praised the achievement in light of the lost weeks at the start of the enrollment period.
He said: "As messy as it's been sometimes, as contentious as it's been sometimes, it's progress."
"Millions of Americans finally had the same chance to buy quality, affordable healthcare and the peace of mind that comes with it," he added.
The White House has not provided a demographic breakdown of the enrollment numbers and it was not immediately clear how many of the enrollees actually paid their premiums.
Also unknown is how many were previously uninsured, which is seen as the real marker to determine the success of Obama's healthcare overhaul.
Although March 31 was the official sign-up deadline, millions of people are potentially still eligible for extensions granted by the administration.
Among those are people who were unable to complete the enrollment process for various reasons, including glitches to the federal website.
As the deadline approached on Monday, critics of the president's healthcare reforms continued to express opposition.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel argued that the law was harming Americans.
He said: "Every promise the president made has been broken: Healthcare costs are rising, not falling.
"Americans are losing the doctors and plans that they like—especially seniors suffering under President Obama's Medicare cuts.
"Small businesses are afraid to hire new workers, hobbling our economic growth. That's why we must replace this fundamentally-flawed law with patient-centered solutions that will actually lower healthcare costs and help create jobs."
Obama fired back at critics as he touted the enrollment figures from the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday.
He said: "The debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act here to stay."
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