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President Obama spoke about health insurance sign-ups at the White House on Thursday.

Susan Walsh • Associated Press,

Obama touts 8 million health care sign-ups

  • Article by: MARK LANDLER
  • New York Times
  • April 17, 2014 - 8:22 PM

– President Obama announced Thursday that 8 million people had signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and that 35 percent of them were under the age of 35, countering those who predicted that it would attract mainly older and sicker people.

The final number exceeds by 1 million the target set by the administration for people to buy insurance through government-run health care exchanges.

In particular, the number of young people signing up appears to have surged during the final weeks of enrollment.

“This thing is working,” Obama said. “The Affordable Care Act is covering more people at less cost than most people would have predicted a few months ago.”

The president’s remarks, delivered in the White House briefing room, amounted to a second victory lap after he announced two weeks ago that 7.1 million people had signed up for insurance during the initial enrollment period, which ended in March.

The administration extended the sign-up period by two weeks until Tuesday to accommodate late applicants, and the new numbers suggested that interest was running high.

While the number of younger applicants has risen, it remains below the level that some analysts believe is necessary for the long-term viability of the insurance marketplace. The administration said 28 percent of those who bought policies were between the ages of 18 and 34; some analysts said the optimum level would be 40 percent.

Still, after a disastrous rollout due to a glitch-ridden government website and last week’s resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Thursday’s announcement was further evidence that the president’s signature legislative initiative is enjoying a dramatic reversal of fortune.

Obama seized on the numbers to make his case that the law is a success, to challenge Republicans to drop their opposition to it and to push states that have chosen not to implement it.

“I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck,” the president said. “They still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working.”

Critics of the law have cautioned that the promising top-line numbers were not by themselves proof of success. In addition to the demographic composition of the people who buy insurance, the number of those who were previously uninsured is important since many could simply have been moved from plans that were canceled by the law.

White House officials did not say how many of the 8 million people were switching from insurance they had before. Administration officials have also not said how many people have made their first premium payments. Critics have said that many of those who signed up have not yet paid.

© 2014 Star Tribune