DYLAN SCOTT – APRIL 1, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT2113
Touting the news that Obamacare had reached 7 million sign-ups, an almost unthinkable achievement so soon after the law's disastrous October launch, President Barack Obama sent a direct message Tuesday to Republicans and their efforts to stymie the law: Get over it.
"The debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay," Obama said Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden. "In the end, history is not kind to those who deny Americans basic economic security. Nobody remembers well those who stand in the way of America's progress or our people. That's what the Affordable Care Act represents."
The president's remarks followed an unprecedented flurry of good news this week for the law and its supporters. Enrollment beat the Congressional Budget Office's original projection, which had been revised down after HealthCare.gov website flopped in the fall. The Los Angeles Times estimated that 9.5 million previously uninsured people had been covered. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that support for Obamacare broke even for the first time.
Obama's comments effectively launched a new White House effort to sell the law's benefits to the public, senior administration officials told reporters -- and to warn about the consequences of repealing it. Having 7 million people enrolled in coverage should give the White House more ammunition to make the case, they said.
"This law is doing what it's supposed to do. It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast. All of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people, or undermine the law, or repeal the law... so hard to understand," Obama said. "I don't get it. Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance? Why are they so mad about the idea of folks having health insurance?"
The senior administration officials conceded that it'll be difficult. Support for Obamacare has been largely stable over time with a few fluctuations: upward after Obama's reelection and downward last fall. One official acknowledged that perceptions of the law are unlikely to change significantly before Obama leaves office. No campaign that the president undertakes for the next two years is likely to cause a major shift.
But the effort must be made, the officials said. It's largely a political necessity: Senate Democrats need to turn out the coalition that reelected Obama if they're going to keep control of the chamber. Support for Obamacare surged among Democrats in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, and the White House believes that holding the law's success up against the threat of repeal could help turn out the base in the fall.
Those who is based their entire political agenda on repealing it... have to explain why we should go back to the days when seniors pay more for prescriptions or women had to pay more than men for coverage," Obama said. "Back to the days when Americans with pre-existing conditions were out of luck. They could be routinely denied the security of health insurance."
"That's exactly what would happen if they repeal this law. Millions of people who now have health insurance would not have it."