WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama told fellow Democrats to stop saying sorry for his health care law Thursday, revealing that eight million people had now signed up for insurance.
Mr Obama said it was also time for Republicans to accept that the Affordable Care Act - the cornerstone of his domestic legacy, which was plagued by a botched rollout and fierce political controversy - works and is here to stay.
"I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud" of helping millions of people, Mr Obama said at a press conference.
"I don't think we should apologize for it, and I don't think we should be defensive about it. I think is a strong, good, right story to tell." Republicans have made opposition to Mr Obama's law a centerpiece of their campaign ahead of mid-term elections in November.
Democrats, who have an uphill battle to retain control of the Senate, have seen their candidates, especially in conservative states, assailed by negative advertising about the law.
Mr Obama said that eight million people had signed up for plans under Obamacare insurance exchanges in the first enrollment period, which ended at the end of last month.
After meeting insurance industry executives at the White House, he also said that 35 per cent of those who had enrolled were under the age of 35.
The age breakdown of those enrolling for the plans is vital to Obamacare's success since the logic of the law requires younger, more healthy patients to subsidize older, sicker plan holders with their premiums.
The law remains broadly unpopular, though some provisions, including the ban on insurance companies refusing policies to those with pre-existing conditions, are winning acceptance.
Mr Obama said he was "curious" why Republicans had made opposition to Obamacare, which they have voted repeatedly to repeal, their core political message.
"If Republicans want to spend all their time talking about repealing a law that's working, that's their business," he said.
"I think what Democrats should do is not be defensive, but we need to move on and focus on the things that are really important to the American people right now." But a spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner said that the White House health care plan had created "havoc" and called on officials to reveal how many of those who signed up for it had actually paid premiums.
"The White House continues to obscure the full impact of Obamacare," said the spokesman, Brendan Buck.