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‘This thing is working’? Widows of Alabama county workers dropped from health plans

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March 31, 2014: An applicant is shown trying to sign up for health insurance on Healthcare.gov. (AP)

As President Obama touts rising enrollment in ObamaCare and declares "this thing is working," one Alabama county has reported another negative side effect from the law -- widows of county workers getting dropped from their insurance. 

A report by Huntsville-based WHNT said that more than a dozen widows of retired Madison County employees lost their coverage earlier this year. 

They originally had been covered under the county's self-insured plan. But, according to WHNT, officials learned that it would have been too expensive to keep providing that coverage and comply with the Affordable Care Act's coverage mandates. 

The county instead joined a statewide network that dozens of county governments already are in. That plan, though, does not offer coverage to husbands and wives when their government employee spouses die. 

WHNT reported that one county commissioner is trying to restore the insurance for widows of county workers, though it's unclear whether he'll be successful. 

"What I'm trying to do is get this coverage back to them," Madison County Commissioner Roger Jones said. "A lot of these people are on fixed incomes. Some of them are living on Social Security and very little else, and health insurance is very important to them." 

The widows reportedly still get 18 months of Cobra coverage once their old insurance expires. 

The Madison County case comes as the Obama administration aggressively steps up its defense of the law and its performance. At a surprise press conference on Thursday, Obama reported that 8 million people have signed up on the federal and state insurance exchanges. 

"This thing is working," Obama said, adding: "The repeal debate is and should be over." 

The 8 million figure is a marked improvement over sign-up figures in late 2013, when the exchange websites were emerging from the disastrous launch in October. Still, the administration has not broken down the numbers to get at the heart of how many people really have obtained coverage under the law. 

Many people were dropped from their old insurance policies last year, and then went into the exchanges. The administration has not said how many of the 8 million were previously insured, and how many were previously uninsured -- those figures would help paint a picture of the net gain in coverage. 

The administration also has not said how many of the 8 million have paid their first month's premium, and technically are enrolled. 

Republicans bristled at the president's tone in the White House briefing room Thursday afternoon. While the president cites the millions gaining coverage and new protections under the law, Republicans note that many also have lost their old policies despite being told they wouldn't. 

"While the President repeatedly pats himself on the back over the number of people that were forced to sign up for his insurance scheme, millions of Americans are experiencing real and significant repercussions," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said in a statement. "The President has now taken to mocking those that point out the negative consequences. The impacts are very real. 

"It's clear that the President remains totally focused on coverage instead of care. He is either ignoring reports from across the country -- or he isn't hearing them. Either way, he is out of touch with Americans who have lost their doctor, had their insurance cancelled and watched their premiums spike all because of this failing law."