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Updated: 04/02/2014 01:19:07AM

7M sign up for Obamacare

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Students at Central New Mexico Community College apply for taxpayer-subsidized health plans under President Barack Obama's health care law during a special enrollment event in Albuquerque, N.M., Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Students at Central New Mexico Community College apply for taxpayer-subsidized health plans under President Barack Obama's health care law during a special enrollment event in Albuquerque, N.M., Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Students at Central New Mexico Community College apply for taxpayer-subsidized health plans under President Barack Obama's health care law during a special enrollment event in Albuquerque, N.M., Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Students at Central New Mexico Community College apply for taxpayer-subsidized health plans under President Barack Obama's health care law during a special enrollment event in Albuquerque, N.M., Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Students at Central New Mexico Community College apply for taxpayer-subsidized health plans under President Barack Obama's health care law during a special enrollment event in Albuquerque, N.M., Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Board member Kealii Lopez of the Hawaii Health Connector, second left, testifies before the Senate Ways and Means Committee at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu, on Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)

Board member Kealii Lopez of the Hawaii Health Connector, second left, testifies before the Senate Ways and Means Committee at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu, on Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)

Board member Kealii Lopez of the Hawaii Health Connector, second left, testifies before the Senate Ways and Means Committee at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu, on Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)

Board member Kealii Lopez of the Hawaii Health Connector, second left, testifies before the Senate Ways and Means Committee at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu, on Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)

Board member Kealii Lopez of the Hawaii Health Connector, second left, testifies before the Senate Ways and Means Committee at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu, on Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)

Hibo Guled, left, a navigator at Somali Health Solutions, checks data that Hassan Hared has stored on his phone while she helps him enroll in MNsure, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

Kha Moua Vang takes paper applications at Portico HealthNet as the MNsure website became overloaded, Monday, March 31, 2014, in St. Paul, Minn. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe)

Tony Wilkerson, right, finishes his paper MNsure application with the help of James Albrecht and Sara Casey at Portico HealthNet, Monday, March 31, 2014, in St. Paul, Minn., as the MNsure website became overloaded. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe)

Raul Chavez of Shakopee holds his head as he starts on his MNsure application at Portico HealthNet, Monday, March 31, 2014, in St. Paul, Minn. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe)

Ibrahim Hassan, left, a navigator at the Somali Health Solutions office, wraps up MNsure health insurance marketplace enrollment for Ahmed Ali of Hopkins, while another client waits his turn, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

Ibrahim Hassan, left, a navigator at the Somali Health Solutions office, wraps up MNsure health insurance marketplace enrollment for Ahmed Ali of Hopkins, while another client waits his turn, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

Warsame Guled, a navigator with the Somali Health Solutions office, helps a client on the phone with their health care enrollment while he waited for the MNsure website to process another client's enrollment, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

Warsame Guled, a navigator with the Somali Health Solutions office, helps a client on the phone with their health care enrollment while he waited for the MNsure website to process another client's enrollment, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

Warsame Guled, a navigator with the Somali Health Solutions office, helps a client on the phone with their health care enrollment while he waited for the MNsure website to process another client's enrollment, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

A waiting area is filled with applicants waiting to be called during a health care enrollment event at the Bay Area Rescue Mission, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Richmond, Calif. Whether it's a chance for a subsidy or to avoid a tax penalty, Californians are making a last-minute dash to sign up for health coverage. Midnight marks the enrollment deadline under President Barack Obama's health reform law. Covered California, the state's insurance exchange, is reporting a final surge after it already had enrolled more than 1 million people for individual policies. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A waiting area is filled with applicants waiting to be called during a health care enrollment event at the Bay Area Rescue Mission, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Richmond, Calif. Whether it's a chance for a subsidy or to avoid a tax penalty, Californians are making a last-minute dash to sign up for health coverage. Midnight marks the enrollment deadline under President Barack Obama's health reform law. Covered California, the state's insurance exchange, is reporting a final surge after it already had enrolled more than 1 million people for individual policies. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A waiting area is filled with applicants waiting to be called during a health care enrollment event at the Bay Area Rescue Mission, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Richmond, Calif. Whether it's a chance for a subsidy or to avoid a tax penalty, Californians are making a last-minute dash to sign up for health coverage. Midnight marks the enrollment deadline under President Barack Obama's health reform law. Covered California, the state's insurance exchange, is reporting a final surge after it already had enrolled more than 1 million people for individual policies. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A waiting area is filled with applicants waiting to be called during a health care enrollment event at the Bay Area Rescue Mission, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Richmond, Calif. Whether it's a chance for a subsidy or to avoid a tax penalty, Californians are making a last-minute dash to sign up for health coverage. Midnight marks the enrollment deadline under President Barack Obama's health reform law. Covered California, the state's insurance exchange, is reporting a final surge after it already had enrolled more than 1 million people for individual policies. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

A waiting area is filled with applicants waiting to be called during a health care enrollment event at the Bay Area Rescue Mission, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Richmond, Calif. Whether it's a chance for a subsidy or to avoid a tax penalty, Californians are making a last-minute dash to sign up for health coverage. Midnight marks the enrollment deadline under President Barack Obama's health reform law. Covered California, the state's insurance exchange, is reporting a final surge after it already had enrolled more than 1 million people for individual policies. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Elizabeth Rich helps a man sign up for the Affordable Care Act at Swope Health Services, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Today is the deadline to sign up for an Affordable Health Care insurance plan however, people who begin the enrollment process but aren't able to complete it by 11:59 p.m. because of a system issue may qualify for a special provision that will allow them to enroll after Monday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Elizabeth Rich helps a man sign up for the Affordable Care Act at Swope Health Services, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Today is the deadline to sign up for an Affordable Health Care insurance plan however, people who begin the enrollment process but aren't able to complete it by 11:59 p.m. because of a system issue may qualify for a special provision that will allow them to enroll after Monday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Elizabeth Rich helps a woman sign up for the Affordable Care Act at Swope Health Services, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Today is the deadline to sign up for an Affordable Health Care insurance plan however, people who begin the enrollment process but aren't able to complete it by 11:59 p.m. because of a system issue may qualify for a special provision that will allow them to enroll after Monday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

People wait their turn to sign up for the Affordable Care Act at Swope Health Services, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Today is the deadline to sign up for an Affordable Health Care insurance plan however, people who begin the enrollment process but aren't able to complete it by 11:59 p.m. because of a system issue may qualify for a special provision that will allow them to enroll after Monday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Elizabeth Rich helps a woman sign up for the Affordable Care Act at Swope Health Services, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Today is the deadline to sign up for an Affordable Health Care insurance plan however, people who begin the enrollment process but aren't able to complete it by 11:59 p.m. because of a system issue may qualify for a special provision that will allow them to enroll after Monday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Amanda Kelinson, left, and Elizabeth Rich help people sign up for the Affordable Care Act at Swope Health Services Monday, March 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Today is the deadline to sign up for an Affordable Health Care insurance plan however, people who begin the enrollment process but aren't able to complete it by 11:59 p.m. because of a system issue may qualify for a special provision that will allow them to enroll after Monday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Amanda Kelinson, left, and Elizabeth Rich help people sign up for the Affordable Care Act at Swope Health Services Monday, March 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Today is the deadline to sign up for an Affordable Health Care insurance plan however, people who begin the enrollment process but aren't able to complete it by 11:59 p.m. because of a system issue may qualify for a special provision that will allow them to enroll after Monday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Jarvis Dortch, Esq., program manager and staff attorney for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program says his staff is working by phone and in person to help state residents apply for coverage through a federally run health insurance website Monday, March 31, 2014 in Jackson, Miss. Dortch says federal figures show roughly 32,000 Mississippi residents had enrolled in coverage through mid-March. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Jarvis Dortch, Esq., program manager and staff attorney for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program says his staff is working by phone and in person to help state residents apply for coverage through a federally run health insurance website Monday, March 31, 2014 in Jackson, Miss. Dortch says federal figures show roughly 32,000 Mississippi residents had enrolled in coverage through mid-March. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Jarvis Dortch, Esq., program manager and staff attorney for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program says his staff is working by phone and in person to help state residents apply for coverage through a federally run health insurance website Monday, March 31, 2014 in Jackson, Miss. Dortch says federal figures show roughly 32,000 Mississippi residents had enrolled in coverage through mid-March. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Jarvis Dortch, Esq., program manager and staff attorney for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program says his staff is working by phone and in person to help state residents apply for coverage through a federally run health insurance website Monday, March 31, 2014 in Jackson, Miss. Dortch says federal figures show roughly 32,000 Mississippi residents had enrolled in coverage through mid-March. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

CORRECTS SPELLING OF NAME TO TORRES NOT TARES - SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Torres, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif. Monday is the deadline to sign up for private health insurance in the new online markets created by President Barack Obama's health care law. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Torres, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif. Monday is the deadline to sign up for private health insurance in the new online markets created by President Barack Obama's health care law. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Tares, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif. Monday marks this year's open enrollment deadline, but consumers will get extra time to finish their applications. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Tares, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif. Monday marks this year's open enrollment deadline, but consumers will get extra time to finish their applications. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Tares, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif. Monday marks this year's open enrollment deadline, but consumers will get extra time to finish their applications. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Tares, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif. Monday marks this year's open enrollment deadline, but consumers will get extra time to finish their applications. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SEIU-UHW worker Kathy Santana, left , assists Ruben Tares, 27, during a health care enrollment event at SEIU-UHW office, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Commerce, Calif. Monday marks this year's open enrollment deadline, but consumers will get extra time to finish their applications. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Board member Kealii Lopez of the Hawaii Health Connector, second left, testifies before the Senate Ways and Means Committee at the Hawaii Capitol in Honolulu, on Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)

Students at Central New Mexico Community College apply for taxpayer-subsidized health plans under President Barack Obama's health care law during a special enrollment event in Albuquerque, N.M., Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Warsame Guled, a navigator with the Somali Health Solutions office, helps a client on the phone with their health care enrollment while he waited for the MNsure website to process another client's enrollment, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Minneapolis. The call center for Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace strained Monday under a crush of people trying to beat the midnight Monday deadline for open enrollment, while residents lined up to take advantage of locations offering in-person help. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

A waiting area is filled with applicants waiting to be called during a health care enrollment event at the Bay Area Rescue Mission, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Richmond, Calif. Whether it's a chance for a subsidy or to avoid a tax penalty, Californians are making a last-minute dash to sign up for health coverage. Midnight marks the enrollment deadline under President Barack Obama's health reform law. Covered California, the state's insurance exchange, is reporting a final surge after it already had enrolled more than 1 million people for individual policies. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Amanda Kelinson, left, and Elizabeth Rich help people sign up for the Affordable Care Act at Swope Health Services Monday, March 31, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. Today is the deadline to sign up for an Affordable Health Care insurance plan however, people who begin the enrollment process but aren't able to complete it by 11:59 p.m. because of a system issue may qualify for a special provision that will allow them to enroll after Monday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Jarvis Dortch, Esq., program manager and staff attorney for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program says his staff is working by phone and in person to help state residents apply for coverage through a federally run health insurance website Monday, March 31, 2014 in Jackson, Miss. Dortch says federal figures show roughly 32,000 Mississippi residents had enrolled in coverage through mid-March. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, gestures as he speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, about the Affordable Care Act. The deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act passed at midnight Monday night. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday celebrated a better-than-expected 7.1 million sign-ups for health coverage that he said should end the debate over whether his signature legislation should be repealed.

Obama announced the 7 million threshold that once was seen as unattainable, even as the number still could climb. People who started applying but couldn’t finish before the Monday midnight deadline can have extra time, as do potential enrollees whose special circumstances kept them from signing up in time.

“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” Obama declared in a feisty Rose Garden speech the day after the deadline for Americans to enroll.

The 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act has been the No. 1 legislative achievement of Obama’s presidency.

Eager to deny Obama any kind of legislative legacy, Republicans have bitterly opposed the law which they say swells big government and represents an unprecedented federal intrusion in the U.S. economy.

It remains unclear how well the Affordable Care Act will work and whether its implementation will see Americans change their views on a law that remains unpopular with many and widely misunderstood.

About 50 million Americans lacked health care coverage as the law began taking effect, and supporters hope it will significantly reduce the ranks of the uninsured.

But the administration has not said how many of those who already have signed up closed the deal by paying their first month’s premiums. Also unknown is how many were previously uninsured — the real test of Obama’s health care overhaul. In addition, the law expands coverage for low-income people through Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, but only about half the states have agreed to implement that option.

The months ahead will show whether the Affordable Care Act will meet its mandate to provide affordable health care coverage or whether high deductibles, paperwork snags and narrow physician networks make it a bust.

After winning control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections, Republicans have voted more than 50 times to revoke or seriously undermine the program, widely known as “Obamacare.” Those bills have never made it to the floor in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The law is at the center of competitive congressional races across the country as its unpopularity is used as a tool by Republicans to attack Democratic House and Senate candidates.

Michael Steel, spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, argued that the law was harming the American people.

“Every promise the president made has been broken: Health care costs are rising, not falling,” Steel said. “Americans are losing the doctors and plans that they like — especially seniors suffering under President Obama’s Medicare cuts. Small businesses are afraid to hire new workers, hobbling our economic growth. That’s why we must replace this fundamentally-flawed law with patient-centered solutions that will actually lower health care costs and help create jobs.”

Obama lashed out at critics who still argue that the law should be repealed.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “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? 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.”

The number of people signed up for health insurance could still climb. People who started applying but couldn’t finish before the deadline can have extra time, as do potential enrollees whose special circumstances kept them from meeting the deadline.


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