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Biden cheers on Obamacare in address to health care advocates

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Vice President Joe Biden cheered on the new health care law Thursday at a pro-Obamacare group’s summit in Washington, pitching health coverage as a “right” for all Americans

“You went out in the field. You knocked on doors. You changed people’s minds,” Mr. Biden told the Families USA’s Health Action 2014 conference. “You argued unabashedly that every American has a right — a God-given right to have adequate health care coverage.”

The Obama administration is cheering on its signature health law more than halfway through its inaugural enrollment period, which began Oct. 1 and ends March 31. So far about 2.2 million Americnas have signed up for private coverage, but critics say only a portion of those enrollees lacked coverage before the law’s implementation.

In remarks that weaved together history and his trademark humor, Mr. Biden said the Affordable Care Act will give millions of Americans the “peace of mind” of knowing they have health coverage.

He said advocates “helped pass the most consequential health care bill in American history, something presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy to Richard Nixon tried to do.”

He also praised them for pushing Republican governors of several states to expand their Medicaid programs, a significant — yet optional — pillar of Obamacare.

The vice president also downplayed a recent study out of Oregon that said people who gain Medicaid actually visited emergency rooms more, not less. Advocates sold the health care law in part by arguing ER visits — and their uncompensated costs — would decrease when more Americans gained health coverage and made use of primary care physicians.

“There was an article really recently saying, even people now covered by Medicaid are still going to the emergency room, as if that’s something weird,” Mr. Biden said. “The truth is many of these people never knew a doctor other than the emergency room. They don’t know even how to manage the system which covers them.”

Turning up the charm, Mr. Biden said President Obama personally dispatched him to the Families USA meet-up.

“Seriously. He checked, ‘You are going, aren’t you, Joe?’” the vice president said. “Even though there’s a national security meeting right now.”

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