3 March 2016 | 8:34 pm
MILWAUKEE — President Obama came to this city on Thursday to highlight the success of the Affordable Care Act, which he said had now allowed 20 million people to gain health care coverage, a new high.
“Today I can announce that thanks to the law, 20 million more Americans now know the security of health insurance,” Mr. Obama said.
In its last comparable estimate, in September, the administration said that 17.6 million uninsured people had gained coverage under the health law because of the new public marketplaces, the expansion of Medicaid and the opportunity for young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26.
Mr. Obama’s trip was intended to reward Milwaukee, which won a nationwide competition called Healthy Communities by enrolling an estimated 38,376 people in private health insurance under the health care law. That was an estimated 75 percent of previously uninsured residents who were eligible, a rate higher than that of any other city.
The health law has been particularly successful in places like Milwaukee, where a coalition of local leaders, charities and health care companies worked diligently to sign up people who did not have health insurance.
Two years into the health care law, clear regional patterns are emerging about who has health insurance in America and who still doesn’t.
OPEN Interactive Map
Milwaukee has a successful health insurance market in part because of robust enrollment. Average insurance premiums in the city fell 2.1 percent for 2016 plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“It’s an example of what community outreach can do even in the face of a governor who is not supportive of the A.C.A.,” said Drew Altman, the president and chief executive of the foundation, which focuses on health issues.
Wisconsin is the only state that used the Affordable Care Act to expand its Medicaid program while declining the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government offered to pay for that expansion.
Gov. Scott Walker has declined to accept $678.6 million that the state could be eligible for under the health law, despite agreeing to expand Wisconsin’s Medicaid program to cover all of those who are too poor to qualify for subsidized private insurance under the law.
The governor has argued that federal funding is uncertain.
“If anyone thinks the federal government, which is currently $18 trillion in debt, will not renege on its future funding promises, they are not living in reality,” Laurel Patrick, Mr. Walker’s press secretary, said.
Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, a nonprofit group, said that Mr. Walker’s argument against accepting the federal money “borders on the ludicrous,” adding, “We are spending huge sums to cover a big subset of the population that the federal government would pay for all on its own.”
He noted that Wisconsin continued to accept federal funding for highway construction, university research and a host of other crucial state functions.
When Mr. Obama last went to Wisconsin, in July, he unleashed a frontal assault on Mr. Walker, likening the governor and a “bus full” of Republican presidential candidates to an “Uncle Harry” at Thanksgiving dinner who says something that makes no sense.
At the time, Mr. Walker was still a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. In the months after Mr. Obama’s visit, Mr. Walker dropped out of the race after making a series of gaffes, like saying he would consider building a wall along the Canadian border.
Mr. Walker’s public approval rating in Wisconsin is 39 percent, with 55 percent disapproving, according to a February poll conducted by Marquette University Law School.
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