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As deadline nears, 4 mil. enroll for health insurance: president

WASHINGTON--U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that about 4 million people have signed up for health insurance through U.S. or state marketplaces set up under his health care law. But with a key deadline approaching fast, he urged some of his most steadfast backers to help sign up millions more.

“We've only got a few weeks left. March 31st, that's the last call,” Obama said, explaining that anyone not signed up by that date will have to wait until open enrollment begins anew in the fall. In the meantime, they risk being fined for not having coverage.

Signing up enough people, particularly those who are young and healthy, is critical for the insurance pool at the heart of the law to function properly by keeping premiums low for everyone.

The White House has set an unofficial goal of 7 million enrollees by the end of March.

Nearly 3.3 million people, or less than half the total, had enrolled through the end of January.

Enrollment was slowed at the start of the sign-up period last October by numerous glitches in the health care website the administration created to help people find coverage. Some states running their own websites encountered problems, too.

Obama blamed the depressed enrollment on the bungled website and on an “implacable opposition” by Republicans that he said has spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to oppose the signature domestic policy accomplishment of his presidency.

The president promised a “big push these last few weeks” to sign people up. Already, he and first lady Michelle Obama have talked up the health care law in interviews with radio and TV stations that reach largely black and Latino audiences. Vice President Joe Biden appeared Tuesday on “The View” TV talk show to encourage its largely female viewership to help get people to buy coverage.

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