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Obama celebrates healthcare success, slams critics

world Updated: Apr 02, 2014 22:10 IST
Yashwant Raj
Barack Obama

President Barack Obama is not given to public display of exultation, never does victory laps. But he allowed himself one on Tuesday, with a beaming vice-president by his side.

"We have taken a big step forward," the president said from the White House lawns, with 7.1 million Americans signing up for insurance under his signature Affordable Care Act.

That exceeded expectations as even a lower target of 6 million had looked unreachable until recently because of a troubled start, including an erratic website hosting the marketplace.

"7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces," said Obama, adding after a pause, " - 7.1."

There are an estimated 48 million Americans without any health insurance. This law, it is hoped, will extend coverage through a mix of incentives — affordable options — and penalties.

Since becoming a law in 2010, the ACA — better known as Obamacare — has become a lightning rod for conservative critics, who have slammed it as government overreach.

Enrollment under the Act started last October during a government shutdown precipitated by congressional Republicans trying, and failing, once again to get it repealed.

Admitting there was room for improving the law, the president addressed his critics squarely, telling them on Tuesday, but "the debate over repealing this law is over". It stays.

The aggression in the tone, analysts noted, was meant equally for skeptics and critics in his own party, specially those running in the congressional elections this November.

They have sought to either distance themselves from the law or tweak it fearing getting swept aside by the backlash, as many of their colleagues in the 2010 November elections.

The president had himself described the election outcome then as a "shellacking". The law remains unpopular, almost four years after — securing less than 50% approval in the latest poll.