WASHINGTON (AP) — Enrollment for the president's health care law has grown to 7.5 million Americans, the Obama administration announced Thursday, handing President Barack Obama and the Democrats bigger coverage numbers to tout in the face of election-year attacks.
Sign-ups for the law stood at 7.1 million last week, but people who had started signing up when the enrollment period closed March 31, or who had trouble signing up, were given extra time to finalize their applications. Four hundred thousand more have now done so, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee. Sebelius said she expects the figure to continue to grow.
The original number already exceeded expectations, a surprise success after a disastrous roll-out and welcome news for Democrats who've been forced to defend their support for the unpopular law derided by critics as "Obamacare." Democratic senators took turns Thursday praising the robust sign-up numbers.
"We now know millions of people who have directly benefited from the Affordable Care Act," said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., while bemoaning that "we're still stuck in this repeal, not repeal mode, particularly in the House of Representatives, and that's not doing a service to the people of this country."
Indeed, the new figure seemed unlikely to tamp down Republican attacks over the law and its new requirement for Americans to carry insurance or face penalties. The GOP sees discontent over the law as a winning political issue heading into November midterm elections where Republicans are aiming to defend their control of the House and perhaps retake the Senate.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, questioned the administration's coverage figures, noting that it's not known how many of the people who've signed up have actually sealed the deal by paying their first month's premium, or how many already had health insurance before the law went into effect.
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