Obama Celebrates Meeting Affordable Care Act Sign-Up Goal

The debate over repealing the law is over, the president said, but the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

Posted: 04/01/2014 04:24 PM EDT

Despite an unimpressive start and technical glitches and other ups and downs, the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act fared better than expected. When the clock past ticked midnight on March 31, the government had exceeded its goal of 7 million sign-ups. In addition, thanks to the law, 9.5 million previously uninsured people now have health care coverage.

"Under this law, the share of Americans with insurance is up and the growth of health care costs is down. And that's good for our middle class and that's good for our fiscal future," President Obama said in a Rose Garden ceremony Tuesday afternoon. "This law hasn't fixed our long broken health care system, but this law has made our broken system a lot better."

According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, public support for Obamacare is growing, albeit at a snail's pace. The survey found that 49 percent of respondents support it, while 48 percent are opposed. That's good news compared to a November poll in which 30 percent said they support the law, and 57 percent opposed it.

Not surprisingly, party affiliation played a big role in respondents' views: 76 percent of Democrats support the law, compared to just 20 percent of Republicans.

"At times this reform has been contentious and confusing. And obviously, it's had its share of critics. That's part of what change looks like in a democracy. Change is hard. Fixing what's broken is hard. Overcoming skepticism and fear of something new is hard," the president said. "A lot of times people would prefer the devil they know than the devil they don't. But this law is doing what it's supposed to do. It's working [and] helping people from coast to coast."

Unable to concede that the law may actually succeed, conservatives like talk show host Rush Limbaugh have new theories about how Obama reached his goal.

"How many of them are signing up out of fear? How many of 'em think, 'My God, if I don't sign up I gotta pay a penalty or I might go to jail'?" he said during his Tuesday broadcast.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who joined Limbaugh on the program, is still calling for the law to be repealed, which he insisted will be the will of the people.

"Let's repeal every word of it," the Republican said.

Obama in his remarks rebuked such theories and questioned why lawmakers would want to take away such a valuable benefit from people who desperately need it.

"I gotta admit: I don't get it. Why are folks working so hard for people to not have health insurance? Why are they so mad about the idea of folks having health insurance?" the president said. "Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels. Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans and in the coming years it will help millions more."

Obama reiterated a previous pledge to work with anyone to make the law better.

"But the debate over repealing this law is over," he said. "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay."

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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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