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Health law sign-ups on track to hit 7 mil.: source

WASHINGTON--Jammed phone lines and unreliable websites failed to stop a last-minute rush by hundreds of thousands of Americans trying to sign up for health coverage by the midnight Monday deadline for U.S. President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy initiative.

Government officials told The Associated Press late Monday that they were on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance by the deadline. But 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.

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 White House and other supporters of the law were hoping for an enrollment surge that would confound skeptics,

The Congressional Budget Office had originally set a target of 7 million for enrollment in private health insurance plans offered through new online federal and state market places created under the law.

That was scaled back to 6 million after the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov last October. Several state-run websites also had crippling problems.

The 7 million target, thought to be out of reach by most experts, was in sight on a day that saw surging consumer interest as well as vexing computer glitches that slowed sign-ups on the HealthCare.gov website.

Two government officials confirmed the milestone, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of an official announcement.

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

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.

House Speaker John Boehner said Monday that Republican lawmakers remain committed to repealing Obama's law.

Since the initial enrollment period began in October, millions of Americans have signed up for health insurance through the state and federal exchanges, with many of the policies heavily subsidized to make them affordable for lower -and-middle income Americans.

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SEIU-UHW (Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West) worker Kathy Santana, left, assists Ruben Torres, 27, during a health care enrollment event at the SEIU-UHW office in Commerce, California on Monday, March 31.

(AP)

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