President Obama came out swinging in a Thursday speech on the Affordable Care Act, taking the law’s opponents to task for spreading misinformation and overstating problems with its implementation.
“I wanted to take a little bit of time today to speak with you, the people who send us to serve, about something that is critical to our families, critical to our businesses, critical to our economy, and that is the reforms that we are making to our health care system,” Obama told the crowd at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland. “There’s been a lot of things said, a lot of misinformation, a lot of confusion. But there are few things more fundamental to the economic security of the middle class and everybody who is trying to get into the middle class than health care.”
It was the final pitch, if you will, five days before the law’s health insurance marketplaces open. It came as congressional Republican opposition to Obamacare is reaching a crescendo, with GOP leadership trying to hold the law ransom in budget and debt-ceiling negotiations unless the White House agrees to delay or defund it. It came amid numerous reports — including another one right after Obama spoke — about glitches or delays in the law’s rollout.So, in one of his most passionate public defenses of his signature legislative achievement, Obama broke the Affordable Care Act down for the audience.
He noted that most people won’t be affected much at all by the law because they’ll keep the same coverage that they currently have. He explained how the uninsured would be able to purchase coverage on the marketplaces, comparing it to buying a TV on Amazon. He outlined the cost reforms that the administration hopes will help curb the nation’s long-term health care costs. He also acknowledged that problems would arise as the law took full effect.
But sprinkled throughout and especially toward the end, the president confronted Obamacare opponents who he said had been misinforming Americans about what the law actually does. Ever since PolitiFact named the “death panels” claim as the 2009 Lie of the Year, misinformation about the ACA has been one of the administration’s chief challenges in selling the law to the public.
Obama used Thursday’s speech to set the record straight.
“Most of the stories you’ll hear about how Obamacare just can’t work is just not based on facts. Every time they have predicted something not working, it’s worked,” the president said. “They said that these rates would come in real high and everybody’s premiums would be sky high and it turns out lo and behold, actually the prices came in lower than we expected. Lower than I predicted. That’s how well competition and choice work.
“They said this would be a disaster in terms of jobs. There’s no widespread evidence that the Affordable Care Act is hurting jobs.”
He referenced Fox News by name, encouraging people to correct misinformation their friends and neighbors might have heard from the news channel. He ripped Republican governors who have been obstructing the law’s advocates in their states. He called out conservative groups for encouraging young adults not to sign up for coverage under the law.
“There are so many people out there working to make it fail,” Obama said. “These are billionaires, several times over. You know they’ve got good health care. But they are actually spending money on television trying to convince young people that if you’ve got the choice between getting affordable health care or going without health care, you should choose not having any health care.”
He repeated a now-popular administration talking point that Republicans’ biggest fear about the ACA is that it’s going to succeed. He chastised GOP officials for their outlandish fear-mongering about the law, pointing to several examples of Obamacare being equated with slavery or being blamed for the future deaths of Americans.
“All this would be funny if it wasn’t so crazy,” Obama said.
And as he was winding down, the president criticized congressional Republicans for attempting to stymie law through budget negotiations or by refusing to lift the debt ceiling unless it gets delayed. Obama’s speech came the same day as House GOP leadership unveiled its debt-ceiling plan, which, among other things, would delay Obamacare’s rollout for one year.
The president reiterated that his administration wouldn’t undercut the law to appease Republican demands.
“If Republicans do not like the law, they can go through the regular channels and processes to try to change it. That’s why we have elections,” Obama said. “So they can go through the normal processes and procedures of a democracy, but you do not threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”
“And meanwhile, we’re going to keep implementing the law. It’s the law.”