MILWAUKEE (AP) — President Barack Obama is trumpeting the nation's declining uninsured rate and says 20 million people have gained insurance as a result of his signature health coverage law.
Obama is visiting Milwaukee to congratulate local leaders for winning a national health insurance enrollment contest.
Obama acknowledges that millions more are eligible to enroll but have yet to do so. He attributes some of that to the acrimony over the law, saying people haven't always known what's true and what's not.
Obama was introduced at Thursday's event in Milwaukee by Brent Brown of Mosinee, Wisconsin, who says he was a Republican who never voted for Obama as president. But he says the president's health care law saved his life after he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and ran out of money for treatment.
Brown is calling on Republicans to quit trying to repeal the health law.
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President Barack Obama will seek to highlight how his signature health insurance overhaul has helped millions of Americans gain coverage as he visits Wisconsin's largest city Thursday to congratulate local leaders for winning a national enrollment contest.
More than 38,000 Milwaukee-area residents newly signed up for health coverage. That's out of about 51,000 uninsured people who were eligible to enroll. The city's sign-up ratio was the highest among the 20 cities competing in the president's "Healthy Communities Challenge." The winning city was promised a visit by the president, who is also using the trip to promote the Affordable Care Act.
For the first time, more than 9 in 10 Americans have health insurance. And the number of uninsured has dropped from about 44.8 million in 2013, the year before the health care law's big coverage expansion, to about 28.8 million, according to the latest estimates.
An improving economy has also helped boost coverage, analysts say.
Still, polling continues to show that slightly more Americans view the law unfavorably than favorably. And repealing the law has been a mantra of Republicans running for federal office as critics argue that the law's mandates have increased coverage costs unnecessarily.
"Republicans and our critics have spent hundreds of millions of dollars distorting the truth about this law, fueling conspiracy theories about this law," White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters traveling with the president. "There's no question that that's going to have an impact."
Obama is using part of his final year to visit communities that he says have benefited from his presidency. Obama hailed the rebound of the auto industry during a recent trip to Detroit. His visit to Milwaukee comes just before the sixth anniversary of his signing the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010.
During the latest enrollment period, Milwaukee officials held sign-up events at libraries, delivered thousands of fliers and participated in phone banks to walk residents through the process.
After arriving in Wisconsin, Obama went to lunch with a few people who wrote letters to him describing how the Affordable Care Act helped them.
One of the diners, Brent Brown of Mosinee, Wisconsin, told Obama he didn't vote for him in either election and, in fact, actively campaigned against him. But Brown credited the health care law with saving his life after he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and drained his bank account until he could no longer afford the care he needed, the White House said.