By Elise Viebeck - 05/20/13 05:08 PM EDT
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the Affordable Care Act in Europe Monday as a major step forward for universal healthcare coverage.
Sebelius invoked the law during a trip to Geneva, where she represented the United States at the World Health Assembly.
In a speech, President Obama's top health official characterized the Affordable Care Act as part of a global movement toward better health through government-led reform.
"Expanding access to health coverage has been a cornerstone goal of President Obama's vision for strengthening opportunity for everyone."
The Geneva trip comes as Sebelius faces criticism from congressional Republicans over her efforts to fundraise for Enroll America, a nonprofit group that will encourage the uninsured to enroll in ObamaCare's new coverage options.
A recent poll found that four in 10 people are not aware the Affordable Care Act is being implemented, suggesting a major challenge for the Obama administration as it begins to invite people to use the law's benefits.
Sebelius did not mention the challenges of implementation in her speech.
She focused instead on urging intergovernmental organizations like the United Nations to promote universal coverage with their members.
"While expanding access to health coverage is a responsibility belonging chiefly to national governments, it is imperative that the international community fulfill its essential role as champions for universal coverage," Sebelius said.
"That means continuing to set aggressive targets and supporting member states in their efforts to put quality care and preventive services within the reach of all people."
Some studies have suggested that the Affordable Care Act will bring the United States more in line with Europe when it comes to greater healthcare coverage access and lower out-of-pocket costs.
Critics argue that the law will not lower costs and represents a dramatic and dangerous expansion of federal authority over U.S. healthcare.