Obama Reiterates Commitment to ACA Implementation, Law’s Benefits
During his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Obama reiterated his administration's commitment to implementing the Affordable Care Act on time and criticized Republicans who are "working hard to confuse" the country about the law, AP/Modern Healthcare reports (Superville, AP/Modern Healthcare, 8/17).
Obama said that there are "a group of Republicans in Congress working hard to confuse people, and making empty promises that they'll either shut down the health care law, or, if they don't get their way, they'll shut down the government." He added, "They're actually having a debate between hurting Americans who will no longer be denied affordable care just because they've been sick -- and harming the economy and millions of Americans in the process."
Obama noted that rather than "sticking it to me," Republicans would "just be sticking it to you" if they succeed in their efforts to "gum up the works and make this law fail" (Haberkorn, Politico, 8/17).
Obama also highlighted some of the ways U.S. residents already are benefiting from the law, such as helping young, healthy adults stay on their parents' health plans and offering no-cost preventive services.
Obama said, "I'm going to keep doing everything in my power to make sure this law works as it's supposed to," adding, "Because in the United States of America, health insurance isn't a privilege -- it is your right. And we're going to keep it that way" (Howell, Washington Times, 8/17).
Axelrod Says More ACA Changes Ahead
In related news, former White House adviser David Axelrod on Friday said he expects the Obama administration to continue to make more changes to improve the ACA as the law is implemented, Politico reports (Kopan, Politico, 8/16).
Axelrod's comments come as the Obama administration faces mounting criticism for delaying key parts of the law. In February, the Obama administration postponed a provision that would limit consumers' out-of-pocket insurance costs. Last month, the administration announced a one year delay to the law's employer mandate.
During an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Axelrod said, "Any program like this has to be adjusted along the way." He added, "Anytime you implement something like this … there will be changes and there should be changes along the way" (Seligman, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 8/16).
Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) -- during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" -- said he is open to making changes to the law after it has been implemented.
Van Hollen said, "Let's see how this works. Right now we're in the process of setting up these exchanges, so finally millions of Americans who had no access to health care will be able to get affordable care." He added, "We need to make sure that that process works, that system works. We can look at ways to modify it down the road, possibly, but let's get that in place."
He noted that Republican efforts to delay the law's individual mandate would be a "huge mistake" (Yager, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/18).
ACA Supporters Hold Events To Promote Law
Meanwhile, ACA supporters on Monday are scheduled to launch tours to counter efforts by Heritage Action to promote defunding the ACA, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Heritage Action -- the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation -- on Monday is expected to kick off a nine-stop tour at which Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint will argue in favor of threatening to shut down the federal government over ACA funding (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/16). The tour will begin in Fayetteville, Ark., and conclude on Aug. 29 in Wilmington, Del.
At the same time, Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care will launch tours to counteract Heritage's message. Supporters said they will hold their own events and speeches hours before the Heritage events, and will have a presence during each Heritage speech. The groups said they also will use mobile billboards in Fayetteville and Dallas on Tuesday, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is scheduled to join the Heritage tour.
The tours come after Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care recently announced a 10-state operation to fight back against GOP messaging in the final months before open enrollment begins (Millman, Politico, 8/16).
Few Comparisons Between ACA, Medicare Launch
Although the ACA has been described as the biggest administrative undertaking since the creation of Medicare in 1965, experts say the implementation of the ACA faces more obstacles than Medicare, Politico reports.
Similar to Lyndon Johnson's administration -- which prepared to roll out Medicare in 1965 -- the Obama administration faces the task of creating a new infrastructure and making sure the health care industry is ready to participate. However, unlike the Johnson administration, the Obama administration continues to face pushback from Republicans in Congress, governors and state legislatures, and business groups.
Joseph Califano -- one of the Johnson administration's top domestic aides -- said Johnson insisted on getting half of Republicans to support the Medicare measure because otherwise he said "they'll drive us crazy -- they'll kill us on appropriations, they'll kill us with the Republican governors." Califano said, "I don't know if Obama's problem was the incalcitrance of the Republicans or his inexperience -- probably both." He added that without that support, the Obama administration has "got a hell of a difficult couple of years ahead."
According to Politico, the Republican resistance has blocked funding for the law and held public hearings into the some of the law's provisions, such as the security system for the exchange data hub. In addition, the Obama administration has been forced to act unilaterally because it has no hope of getting Congress to pass any changes that would improve the law.
The ACA launch also has been compared to the roll out of Medicare Part D in 2003. However, former CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said the situations do not compare because many Democrats eventually supported Part D and decided to provide their constituents with helpful information on it (Nather, Politico, 8/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.