WASHINGTON – Mocking his critics, President Barack Obama boasted Tuesday that 7.1 million people have signed up for his health care law, an unexpected comeback after a disastrous rollout sent his poll numbers plummeting and stirred fears among Democrats facing re-election this fall.
The debate over repealing this law is over, he declared. It’s here to stay.
Despite lingering problems with the website, a late wave of enrollments pushed sign-ups higher than critics and even the White House had believed possible. Still, the administration hasn’t determined how many of those people have closed the deal by paying their first month’s premiums.
Also unclear is how many were previously uninsured – the real test of Obama’s health care overhaul. The law also expanded coverage for low-income people through Medicaid, but only about half of the states have agreed to implement that option.
The late enrollment surge may do little to change the political dynamics heading into the midterm elections, particularly for Democrats running in conservative states where the health law and the president himself remain deeply unpopular.
Still, with millions of people now receiving health benefits under the law, Democrats see an opportunity to undercut Republicans still pushing to repeal Obamacare. And GOP lawmakers, wary of overplaying their political hand, are indeed grappling with whether to press forward with repeal or narrow their focus on replacing the law with different health measures.