Aamer Madhani, USA Today
WASHINGTON - After spending much of the past two months on the
defensive as a result of the rocky rollout of his health care law,
President Obama began a pre-holiday campaign Tuesday to boost enrollment
now that the troubled online health exchange has been largely repaired.
White House, the Democratic National Committee and the pro-Obama
political group Organizing for Action say they will spend the next few
weeks highlighting how Americans benefit under the law. Consumers must
be enrolled in a health care plan by Dec. 23 to be on the insurers'
rolls Jan. 1.
In a speech to mark the beginning of the effort,
Obama took aim at Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly called for
repeal of the law and have attempted to use the troubled implementation
to take shots at several vulnerable Democratic lawmakers up for
re-election in 2014 who supported the Affordable Care Act.
not repealing it as long as I'm president," said Obama, who was flanked
by Americans who have benefited from aspects of the law. He said, "If I
have to fight another three years to make sure that this law works, then
that's what I'll do."
The publicity blitz for Obamacare comes
after the administration claimed victory in achieving its goal of
getting the glitch-riddled HealthCare.gov website working for the vast
majority of Americans by Nov. 30. Consumers are still experiencing some
delays on the site, but the White House said there were more than 1
million visitors to the site Monday.
Though the administration can
claim it has made huge strides improving the website - which serves as
the online exchange for 36 states that refused to create their own
exchanges - Obama is not out of the woods.
Some of the enrollment
data insurers received from Americans who have signed up through the
health care exchange contain errors - meaning some consumers might not
be able to access the benefits Jan. 1 when they're scheduled to go into
Republicans seized on a report released Tuesday by the
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that found that
"critical" pieces in security controls failed during testing and that
the Internal Revenue Service's fraud detection system may not be capable
of identifying ACA refund fraud.
The report was completed more
than two months ago, and the IRS noted in a response that it has taken
steps to bolster its fraud detection.
"The president's health care
law continues to wreak havoc on American families, small businesses and
our economy," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said before Obama
spoke. "And it's not just a broken website."
improvements to the website, the White House is set to resume stating
its case to the public that it is working to meet a huge demand from
Americans for affordable health care.
Obama said he hopes to focus
attention back on the benefits of the law - something he said has been
lost with all the attention on the website's problems.
As a result
of the law, the president said, Americans are benefiting from bans on
insurers setting lifetime benefit limits. He said 7 million seniors and
Americans with disabilities have saved $1,200 on prescription drug costs
and 9.5 million families have received refunds from their insurers.
important for everybody to remember is not only has the law helped
millions of people, but there are millions more that stand to be
helped," Obama said. "And we got to make sure they know that."
Several polls have shown that a majority of Americans disapprove of the law, but a majority are opposed to a total repeal.
criticized Obama as being out of touch with what Americans want, but he
declined to commit to vote on replacing the president's health care law
next year with a Republican plan.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell, R-Ky., dismissed the president's effort to trumpet the law.
The senator's office noted that the latest effort marks at least the
13th attempt at a public relations blitz for the law since 2009.
campaign-style event won't solve the myriad problems facing consumers
under Obamacare," McConnell said before Obama's speech.
charged that McConnell and fellow Republicans are disingenuous for
repeatedly calling for repeal but not offering a viable alternative for
helping Americans without insurance.
"If, despite all the millions
of people benefiting from it, you still think this law is a bad idea,
you got to tell us specifically what you'd do ... to make insurance more
secure," Obama said. ""You can't just say the system was working with 41
million without health insurance."