TIME Healthcare

Obama Hosts Obamacare Enrollment Party

Champagne, but no selfies, for those who helped 8 million Americans enroll in the Affordable Care Act

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama feted about 300 people at the White House on Thursday to celebrate the close of the Affordable Care Act’s maiden enrollment period.

Despite a rocky rollout, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that 8,019,763 people selected health-insurance plans through the marketplaces created under the law through the middle of April, exceeding projections.

The Obamas cracked open the champagne for allies and advocates who helped defend the law against Republican attacks and led a nationwide campaign to get Americans enrolled in the marketplace plans.

Among the attendees were labor leaders, Democratic operatives and health care activists, as well as celebrities who helped the Administration promote the law, including University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, former NFL player Eddie George, Friday Night Lights and Nashville star Connie Britton, University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, and actor and former White House official Kal Penn.

According to attendees, the President highlighted the success of the initial enrollment period, but said more work needed to be done — both when enrollment reopens later this year and in states that have not accepted federal dollars to expand Medicaid. Obama gave a special shout-out to the “tech team,” which fixed the troubled HealthCare.gov website that threatened to derail the enrollment process. He was followed by the First Lady, who expressed how proud she was of her husband for pushing the health care law through even when it was politically inexpedient.

Attendees said Obama got “pretty emotional” as his wife retold stories of those who have been helped by the law.

After the Obamas spoke, they worked the room greeting attendees, but as the President warned the crowd: “We don’t have time for selfies with everyone.”

Here’s a readout of the event from a White House official:

The White House Office of Public Engagement hosted an event this afternoon with stakeholders and Administration officials who helped with the outreach and enrollment around the Affordable Care Act to thank them for their efforts.

The President and First Lady attended, along with Senior White House Officials, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Secretary Tom Perez. Guests included the broad and diverse group of stakeholders who helped to enroll Americans in quality affordable health plans, and get information out about their health care options, including consumer groups, techies, pharmacies, hospitals, athletes, celebrities, local elected officials and community leaders.

The President thanked attendees for the tremendous work they did to help 8 million people sign up for private health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act Market Places. He emphasized that this represents a major step forward for this country and that the real impact is playing out in the lives of men, women, and children all across this country who now have access to health care – many for the first time.

The President also reminded the attendees that, thanks to their tireless efforts, in last six weeks leading up to the March 31st deadline, 300 radio interviews blanketed the airwaves in key markets. Over five-thousand events were held in key communities across the country. About 350 million followers were reached through social media channels, and there were over 33 million views of videos encouraging enrollment between content produced the White House videos, YouTube personalities, Funny or Die, and College Humor.

In addition to the 8 million who enrolled in private plans, over 4.8 million more people have been covered by states through Medicaid and CHIP programs and around 3 million more Americans under 26 are covered under their parents’ plans. And because of the ACA, 100 million Americans have gained free preventive care, like mammograms and contraceptive care, under their existing plans. Nearly 8 million seniors have saved almost $10 billion on their medicine. And a whole lot of families will have the security of health care, because the Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from placing dollar limits on the coverage they provide.

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