Obama Touts ACA in SOTU, While GOP Response Criticizes Law
President Obama touted the Affordable Care Act in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, while calling on Republican lawmakers to offer "specific plans" to cut health care costs, Modern Healthcare reports.
In his speech, which focused primarily on jobs and the economy, Obama spent some time highlighting various ACA success stories, including personal anecdotes from those who have avoided financial difficulties by gaining coverage. He also plugged the law's ban on pre-existing conditions and young adults' ability to stay on their parents' coverage until age 26 (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 1/28).
He said, "Because of this law, no American can ever again -- none, zero -- be dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition like asthma, back pain or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she's a woman." He added, "And we did all this while adding years to Medicare's finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors" (Pittman, MedPage Today, 1/28).
Obama also said that more than nine million U.S. residents have enrolled in private health plans or Medicaid coverage and urged "every American who knows someone without health insurance" to help them get coverage before April.
He applauded efforts by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) for successfully implementing a state-run health insurance exchange, which he said has enrolled 116,000 Kentucky residents in coverage as of the end of December 2013 (Nather, Politico, 1/28). He added, "Kentucky's not the most liberal part of the country, but [Beshear's] like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth's families."
Obama Challenges GOP
Obama challenged Republican lawmakers to offer alternative solutions rather than hold "another 40-something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans" (Baker, National Journal, 1/28).
He said, "Now I don't expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren't interested in refighting old battles." He added, "So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people and increase choice -- tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up" (Politico, 1/28).
Other Health Care Initiatives
Obama also discussed several other health care initiatives, promising to do more for veterans' health care, particularly meeting their need for mental health treatment.
He also highlighted first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, which he said "will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come" (MedPage Today, 1/28).
Fact Checking Obama's Speech
Throughout his speech Obama appeared to have exaggerated some of the ACA's affects and oversimplified enrollment data, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
Although Obama claimed that the ACA has helped to keep Medicare beneficiaries' premiums "flat," the basic premium increased by $5 from $99.90 in 2012 to $104.90 in 2013, while premiums for higher-income beneficiaries also have risen, according to the AP/Bee.
The AP/Bee also questioned the ACA's effects on increasing Medicare's solvency, noting cuts to providers imposed by the law "cannot simultaneously be used to expand coverage for the uninsured and shore up Medicare."
Meanwhile, Obama also failed to clarify that some of the more than nine million U.S. residents who have gained coverage since the law took effect likely were renewing coverage (Woodward, AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/29).
Although Obama touched on several health care initiatives in his speech, two key health care discussions were not included, Politico reports.
First, Obama did not acknowledge the rocky launch of HealthCare.gov and the Obama administration's efforts to repair the site. Further, he directed U.S. residents to enroll in coverage under the law but stopped short of telling them to visit HealthCare.gov to complete and submit an application.
Obama also did not mention possible reforms to entitlement programs, such as Medicare. Such reforms received considerable attention from the president as he worked to reach a budget deal with Republicans last year (Gerstein/Epstein, Politico, 1/29).
McMorris Rodgers, who has a six-year old son with Down syndrome and has co-founded the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, said, "Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government's." She added, "And that whether you're a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you" (Cassata, AP/U-T San Diego, 1/28).
She also criticized the ACA for raising premiums, sharing the story of a woman who sent her a letter stating that her premiums would increase by nearly $700 per month under the ACA. In response, McMorris Rodgers said, "No, we shouldn't go back to the way things were, but this law is not working" (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action," The Hill, 1/28).
Tea Party Response
He said, "Obamacare -- all by itself -- is an inequality Godzilla that has robbed working families of their insurance, their doctors, their wages and their jobs" (Glueck, Politico, 1/28). He added, "When it comes to health care, we know the best way to repeal Obamacare is to deliver better solutions. We can't just return to the old system. Health care policy used to give too much power to insurance companies; Obamacare now gives far too much power to government. We know that real reform will put health care dollars and decisions where they belong: in the hands of patients and families and their doctors and nurses" (Joseph, "Ballot Box," The Hill, 1/28).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.