President Barack Obama exulted
in announcing on Tuesday that 7.1 million Americans had enrolled in Obamacare — but Republican Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn slammed the Affordable Care Act as a "botched law that has caused millions of Americans to lose their health insurance.
"It has forced individuals to sign up for more expensive health insurance or face a penalty," Cornyn, the Texas Republican told Newsmax. "It has resulted in cancer patients losing access to their doctors — and it is slashing full-time jobs across the country.
"At 1600 Pennsylvania, that’s cause for a celebration," he added. "On Main Street, it’s a tragedy."
Cornyn joined many Republicans in statements to Newsmax or on social media that blasted the Obama announcement, which came a day after the first open-enrollment period ended. Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert trashed it as "the ultimate April Fools' Day joke."
Signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act is considered President Obama's major domestic achievement. The enrollment period began on Oct. 1 and has since been plagued by numerous glitches to the HealthCare.gov website.
Target estimates have been lowered by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the president himself has extended nearly 40 delays to mandates of the healthcare law.
Americans who could not sign up via the national website by March 31 will have until the middle of the month to do so as a result of one of the many extensions which have been opposed tooth-and-nail by Republicans.
Millions of Americans have lost their health insurance since the individual mandate took effect — despite promises from Obama that they could keep their plans and doctors if they desired — or have faced skyrocketing premiums or lower-quality coverage.
The botched rollout was a clear factor in Obama's plunging approval ratings — and Republicans see the beleaguered healthcare law as critical to their re-taking the Senate in this November's congressional elections.
Already Republican David Jolly has won a special election
in Florida to fill a vacant seat in the House by campaigning against the healthcare law — and the GOP-controlled lower chamber has voted more than 50 times to repeal, defund, or scale back Obamacare.
Despite the announcement, administration officials cautioned that they were still compiling the data needed to determine the ultimate success of the six-month enrollment period: how many enrollees were previously uninsured and whether enough younger, healthy people signed up to offset the costs of covering older, sicker consumers.
Still, Obama glowed during a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House — and his pronouncements were heartily cheered by administration staff and other supporters.
"The bottom line is this: Under this law, the share of Americans with insurance is up, and the growth of healthcare costs is down. And that's good for our middle class, and that's good for our fiscal future," the president said as Vice President Joe Biden beamed beside him.
"As messy as it's been sometimes, as contentious as it's been sometimes, it's progress."
Obama then attacked Republicans for their efforts to stop the healthcare law.
"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 debate over repealing this law is over," President Obama declared. "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay."
But Republicans quickly vowed to re-double their efforts to get rid of it.
"Despite the White House 'victory lap,' this law continues to harm the American people," Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement. "Every promise the president made has been broken: healthcare costs are rising, not falling.
"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," Steel added. "That’s why we must replace this fundamentally flawed law with patient-centered solutions that will actually lower healthcare costs and help create jobs."
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who heads the House Republican Conference, noted that the continuous Obamacare delays were "an admission of the law’s fundamental failure.
"The success of the president’s healthcare law cannot be measured by his words and unconfirmed numbers, but by the real-life stories of Americans from coast to coast," she told Newsmax.
Cornyn said that Republicans were "operating in reality" by keeping up the pressure to end Obamacare.
"We’re committed to getting rid of this failed law and replacing it with common-sense reforms that will truly bring down healthcare costs and boost access for all Americans," Cornyn said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, the upper chamber's longest-serving Republican, said that Obama "failed to tell Americans the full story" with Tuesday's announcement.
Referencing other CBO reports, the Utah senator told Newsmax that "the same number of people could actually lose access to their employer-based coverage.
"And, he failed to mention how many Americans signing up for Obamacare used to have insurance they liked and doctors they trusted before they lost them due to this law," Hatch added. "The president can continue to ignore the harsh side-effects of his health law, but the American people have to live with these realities."
Some senators took to Twitter to attack the new figures, including Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia physician, raised several questions about President Obama's figures.
"How many of those who have 'enrolled' in the Obamacare exchanges have paid their premiums, the actual step necessary to attain coverage?" he asked. "How many of these folks were previously insured but had their plans cancelled because of Obamacare?
"By failing to answer these questions, the Obama administration is simply trying to seek political cover by hiding behind the headlines," he said.
Gohmert said if the Affordable Care Act is not halted, it will continue to do even more damage to this country.
"Healthcare should not be about pushing a government agenda or spending millions of healthcare dollars on registering people to vote as Democrats," he said. "It should be about preserving precious lives and providing Americans with the best options available."
And Mac Zimmerman, policy director for Americans for Prosperity, charged Obama with "choosing politics over people. He doesn't want to admit it, but millions of Americans are being hurt by Obamacare."
The conservative political action committee is co-founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
"Individuals and families across the country have lost the healthcare plans and doctors that they've come to depend on. Their premiums are rising, and it's only going to get worse," Zimmerman said.
"This administration will say and do anything to avoid admitting that their signature healthcare law is a terrible deal for millions of Americans across the country."
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