He didn't earn any plaudits from Republicans while speaking in the House chamber, where the GOP had voted more than 40 times to repeal part or all of the health care reform law. But he didn't shy from it either, tying it into the theme of economic opportunity and financial security that pervaded the speech.
"One last point on financial security. For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven't heard, we're in the process of fixing that," Obama said. "That's what health insurance reform is all about -- the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don't have to lose everything."
It was a long road to get to this point. The launch of HealthCare.gov was an unmitigated disaster, and the president took a beating as millions of Americans received plan cancellations that appeared to contradict Obama's oft-repeated pledge that "if you like your health plan, you can keep it."
But the White House has seized on positive news for the law: 3 million Americans have purchased private coverage through HealthCare.gov and its state counterparts and millions more have been covered through Medicaid.
The president's comments reflected that new confidence. He touted the law's success is unexpected places like Kentucky, where the Democratic governor has embraced its reforms, and challenged Republicans to come up with a viable alternative now that people have been covered by Obamacare.
"I don't expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law," Obama said. "But I know the American people aren't interested in re-fighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut cots, cover more people and increase choice -- tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up."
"But let's not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans... The first forty were plenty. We got it. We all owe it to the American people to say what we're for, not just what we're against."