WASHINGTON (AP) — The first stage of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is expected to provide coverage to about 1 million uninsured Americans by next year, according to government estimates.
That's a small share of the uninsured, but in a shaky economy, experts say it's notable.
Many others — more than 100 million people — are getting new benefits that improve their existing coverage.
Overall costs appear modest at this point, split among taxpayers, employers and individuals who directly benefit, although the biggest part of the health care expansion is still four years away.
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For weeks, the White House has been touting the new law's initial benefit changes, even as Obama dares Republicans to make good on their threat to repeal his signature social policy achievement. Now, a clearer picture is starting to emerge from the patchwork of press releases.
In 2014, government tax credits will help uninsured workers and their families pay premiums, and Medicaid will take in many more low-income people. Eventually, more than 30 million will gain coverage, sharply reducing the number of uninsured and putting the nation on a path to coverage for all citizens and legal immigrants.
Political salesmanship and an attempt to address some glaring health insurance problems are key elements of the strategy to explain the initial changes resulting from the law. After battling for a year to pass the legislation, Democrats desperately wanted to have tangible accomplishments to point to in high-stakes congressional elections this fall. But they also have to deflect lingering questions, often stirred up by opposition candidates, and doubts about the effectiveness of the overhaul and its costs.