Obama Touts Ways the Affordable Care Act Saves Residents Money
The speech was Obama's first since he announced that the ACA's employer mandate would be delayed by a year.
Details of Obama's Remarks
In the speech, Obama said people nationwide have benefited from the ACA's medical-loss ratio provision, which requires insurers to issue refunds to beneficiaries if the insurers spend less than 80% of the premiums they collect on medical care (Favole et al., Wall Street Journal, 7/18).
Federal officials announced last month that about $500 million in rebates would be distributed to 8.5 million beneficiaries, for an average of $100 per family (Felsenthal, Reuters, 7/18). Obama said, "I bet if you took a poll, most folks wouldn't know when that check comes in that this was because of Obamacare that they got this extra money in their pockets" (Wall Street Journal, 7/18).
Obama also highlighted 2014 insurance rate estimates from states that suggest premiums offered through state-run exchanges will be lower than expected. He said, "The Affordable Care Act is doing what it is designed to do -- deliver more choices, better benefits, a check on rising costs and higher quality health care." He noted a recent announcement from New York that insurance premiums for certain plans offered through the state's health insurance exchange will be at least 50% lower than those currently available (Levey, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/18).
In addition, Obama touted a newly released HHS report that found the lowest cost plan in the individual market among 10 surveyed states and the District of Columbia will be about $320 a month, or 18% lower than previous HHS and Congressional Budget Office estimates (Wall Street Journal, 7/18). He said, "In states that are working hard to make sure that this law delivers for their people, what we are seeing is that consumers are getting a hint of how much money they are potentially going to save" ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/18).
Meanwhile, Obama also questioned Republicans' continued efforts to dismantle or repeal the ACA. Obama said rather than spending time to address other problems plaguing the U.S. -- such as the federal deficit -- "we're refighting these old battles" (Wall Street Journal, 7/18). He acknowledged that "there are a lot of folks in this town who are rooting for the law to fail," adding, "We're just going to blow through that stuff and keep on doing the right thing for the American people" (Galewitz/Appleby, Kaiser Health News, 7/18).
Rubio Criticizes Obama's ACA Defense
In remarks on the Senate floor that some observers described as a rebuttal to Obama's comments, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday called the ACA a "massive government takeover of health insurance in America" that "doesn't fix the problem," Reuters reports (Lawder, Reuters, 7/18).
Rubio responded to Obama's criticisms of the GOP's ongoing efforts to dismantle the ACA, saying, "Mr. President, the reason why this issue is still being talked about is because Obamacare is a disaster."
Rubio also said that "for millions of people, the cost and availability of insurance is a real problem, and we should do something about that."
He provided an example of how the ACA's requirements are harming employers, by forcing them to either limit their insurance options, reduce their workforce to avoid the employer mandate or pay a fine for violating the law.
Rubio called on his Senate colleagues to seize an opportunity this fall to use a highly anticipated short-term budget bill to "put the brakes on this terrible mistake" and replace it with something that "protects what's good about the current system and fixes what is bad with it."
He said, "And let me be clear, anyone who votes for the short-term budget that funds Obamacare is voting to move forward with Obamacare" (Rubio release, 7/18). Rubio added, "Don't come here and say, 'I'm against Obamacare,' if you're willing to vote for a budget that funds it. If you pay for it, you own it" (Reuters, 7/18).
Other GOP Leaders Respond to Obama's Comments
Obama's comments also prompted criticism from other Republican leaders, the New York Times reports.
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "The picture that the president paints of his health care law looks nothing like the reality facing struggling American families. They know that the law is turning out to be a train wreck" (Landler, New York Times, 7/18).
Boehner also reiterated his criticism of the Obama administration's recent decision to delay the employer mandate and not the individual mandate. He said, "The cost and complexity of the law are so great that the president had to give businesses an exemption from its mandates." He added, "Yet -- unfairly -- American families are not getting the same protections."
Boehner pledged that House Republicans would continue "efforts to fully repeal the president's health care law in its entirety once and for all" (Boehner release, 7/18).
Prior to Obama's speech, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "Even though we expect the President today to tout about $500 million worth of these types of refunds, what he won't say is that next year, Obamacare will impose a new sales tax on the purchase of health insurance that will cost Americans about $8 billion." He added, "That's a 16 to 1 ratio" (New York Times, 7/18).
McConnell called on the president and Democrats to work with Republican lawmakers "to repeal Obamacare and start over -- work with us to implement common-sense, step-by-step reforms that can actually lower costs" (McConnell release, 7/18).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.