In the mid-tern election year, US President Barack Obama has something to cheer about as he announced Thursday that 8 million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act rolled out in 2010.
The figure is above the Government's target of 7 million. Republicans were against the Act from the beginning and their demand to repeal the law heightened when there were initial hiccups in enrolment. The website showed some technical snags and there were problems during registration in the first few months. All these had demoralised the Democrats who thought the result would directly reflect in the mid-term election in November 2014.
Obama motivated his party to firmly believe in what they were doing and not shy away from defending the government's initiatives. "I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud (of the law). I don't think we should apologise for it, I don't think we should be defensive about it," Obama said.
"The president ignores the havoc that this law has wreaked on private plans that people already had and liked," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for Boehner (R-Ohio).
However, Obama said at a news meet, "This thing is working. The GOP said no one would sign up. They were wrong about that. They are wrong to try to repeal a law that is working."
Last year, many people were served notices that their insurance plans were being cancelled as they didn't fulfil the basic eligibility criteria of the Affordable Care Act. But after complaints by Republicans and some Democrats, Obama released an order allowing those plans to continue through 2016.
Officials haven't yet come out with the figures of how many people who got registered were previously uninsured and are thus benefiting from the new health care law. Playing on such points, Republicans are saying that Obama is hyping the figures.
But, there was a positive feedback from California's state-run insurance exchange which reported Thursday that by the end of the enrolment period, nearly 1.4 million Californians had registered compared to the initial projections of almost 100,000 people.
The President also gave an example of a Pennsylvania woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer and got an affordable policy through the Affordable Care Act for her family - a self-employed husband and two children. "She is saving her home. She is saving her business. She is saving her parents' home, potentially, because she's got health insurance, which she just could not (previously) afford," Obama said. As per Government figures, 3 million people under the age of 26 could now stay on their parents' health plans because of the Affordable Care Act.
According to the Affordable Care Act, most Americans need to get health coverage, or pay a penalty. But many can go for government subsidies if they meet the income requirements.
The Affordable Care Act gives access to quality and affordable health insurance to Americans for which people who can afford must obtain health coverage by 2014 or pay a monthly fee.
Obama condemned states that have rejected federal funds for the Medicaid. He said the behaviour by Republican governors and legislatures "frustrates" him. "You got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states — other than ideological reasons they have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens."
The White House said 24 states, including Louisiana, did not agree to launch the Medicaid expansion fully sponsored by the federal government for the first three years.
Monica Lindeen, the president- elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, said states will be in a better position during the next open enrollment period, which begins October 1. The present registration closed on March 31, 2014.
The new law does not look at pre-existing conditions, stops insurance companies from dropping you when you are sick, protects against gender discrimination, expands free preventative services and health benefits, expands Medicaid and CHIP, improves Medicare, mandates larger employers insure employees, creates a marketplace for subsidised insurance.