As the administration rushes to prepare for a critical launching of the Affordable Care Act this fall, President Obama on Thursday lashed out at his Republican critics on Capitol Hill who he said are “rooting” and working to undermine his signature health care reform program.
A day after House Republicans passed their 38th and 39th measure aimed at dismantling Obamacare, the White House staged a pep rally to herald some of the early successes of the new law. While the new law still faces many technical and political challenges, the president promised relatively smooth sailing.
The Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Internal Revenue Service and cooperative state governments are preparing to unveil on-line insurance marketplaces on Oct. 1. The marketplaces are designed to enable millions of uninsured Americans to shop for affordable health insurance policies and determine whether they qualify for federal subsidies. The president noted that many people already are enjoying benefits from the new law, even before the new virtual insurance markets are up and running.
“Now I recognize there are still a lot of folks in this town at least who are rooting for this law to fail,” Obama said in a direct attack on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and his Republican members. “Some of them seem to think it’s more about me. It’s not. I already have really good health care.”
“It’s about the dad in Maryland who for the first time ever saw his premiums go down instead of up,” Obama said. “It’s about the grandma in Oregon whose free mammogram caught her breast cancer before it had a chance to spread. It’s about the mom in Arizona who can afford heart surgery for her little girl now that the lifetime cap on her insurance has been lifted.”
The Affordable Care Act has come under withering assault from critics, even after the Supreme Court ruled last year that it was constitutional. Those critics charge that Obamacare will result in higher premiums for many Americans, particularly young people in their 20s and 30s, and that it likely will prompt businesses to lay off millions of workers or scale back their hours to get around the new law.
Obama’s rally came a day after reports that some individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their extremely high premiums plummet next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect. State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York, according to The New York Times.
Beginning in October, some individuals in New York City who currently pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly if they qualify – and the savings would be more substantial for poor and lower-middle class people who qualify for federal subsidies. Full coverage family plans will range between $24,000 and $33,000 a year.
Obama previously touted California as a prime example of how the Affordable Care Act is working and has defied the predictions of “doom-and-gloomers” of skyrocketing premiums. But the effects of the health care overhaul around the country have been mixed, with some states including Ohio warning of skyrocketing premiums for people turning to the new exchanges for health insurance coverage.
The administration contends that once the new law fully takes effect, it will provide added protections, benefits and rebates for the 85 percent of Americans who already have insurance while providing affordable or subsidized insurance for many of the more than 40 million uninsured in the country. The law already allows parents to keep their children on their health insurance policies through age 26.
“The good news is that, starting on Oct. 1, new on-line market places will allow consumers to go on line and compare private health care insurance plans just like you would compare over the Internet the best deal on flat-screen TVs or cars or any other products that are important to your lives,” Obama said today. “And you’re going to see competition in ways that we haven’t seen before.”
Republicans offered a much different view of the law on Wednesday when the GOP-controlled House passed bills calling for one-year delays of two key provision – one requiring larger businesses to provide health insurance to their workers and the other requiring nearly all uninsured Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty.
The Obama administration has already delayed the so-called employer mandate for a year in response to complaints from the business community. But the administration needs to preserve the individual mandate to force a requisite number of Americans to sign up for the new program to make it economically feasible. The Senate is unlikely to approve either bill, and even if one or the other made it through the Congress, the president would be certain to veto it.
There are also many questions about whether the new IT system will be operating successfully by the time of the Oct. 1 launch.
“This law is imploding,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a co-sponsor of the bills. “This law is unnecessary. This law needlessly raised health-care costs. And this law will cause millions of people to lose the health insurance that they have, that they want to keep.”