President Obama touted his signature healthcare law Friday, dismissing Republican “fearmongering” and arguing that the law is working.
“Since everybody’s been saying how it’s not going to happen, I think it’s important for us to recognize and acknowledge this is working the way it’s supposed to,” Obama said in a brief speech in San Jose, Calif.
Obama’s pitch for the healthcare law comes at a crucial time. The administration, along with state governments, is just months away from opening new insurance marketplaces and beginning to enroll millions of people in new coverage options.
Obama on Friday criticized Republican “fearmongering” over the effects of the healthcare law. The early results of the implementation effort have been promising, he argued.
“In states that are working hard to implement this law properly, we’re seeing it work for people — for middle-class families, for consumers,” Obama said.
Obama delivered his healthcare speech in California — a state that has had a smooth experience with the healthcare law so far, but is also far more invested in its success than other large states.
Californians who use the state’s insurance exchange will be able to choose among 13 insurance companies. And though rates for some bare-bones policies will increase, premiums overall came in far lower than expected in California.
Obama said California’s rates show that critics’ “sky is falling, doom and gloom predictions” about cost increases were misguided.
"You can listen to a bunch of political talk out there, negative ads and fearmongering geared toward the next election, or alternatively you can look what's happening in states like California right now," Obama said.
California isn’t the only state with encouraging results on premiums. Costs in Washington, Oregon and Vermont are also expected to hold relatively steady or rise at a rate that is consistent with pre-ObamaCare trends.
“What’s happening is, through the Affordable Care Act, we’re creating these marketplaces with more competition, more choice,” Obama said.
The problem for the White House is that early data has come from the states that have been the most proactive in implementing the healthcare law, including building their own exchanges. And insurance was already highly regulated in those states.
Most states, though, aren’t being as helpful. Thirty-three states refused to set up their own exchanges, forcing the federal government to build all or part of their marketplaces. Funding for the federally run exchanges is tight.
“There will be some glitches; there are going to be some hiccups,” in the implementation process, Obama said Friday, but, he added, ultimately the law will work and millions of uninsured people will gain access to coverage.
The exchanges will work better, and premiums will be lower, if there is high demand to buy coverage through the new marketplaces.
“To take advantage of these marketplaces, folks are going to need to sign up,” Obama said.
He encouraged people to enroll, highlighting tax credits that will help cover the cost of premiums. Roughly 2.6 million uninsured Californians — about half of whom are Latino — will be eligible for the tax credits, Obama said.
“Starting on Oct. 1, if you’re in the individual market, you can get a better deal,” Obama said.
The exchanges are primarily intended for people who buy insurance on their own, rather than getting it through an employer.
Individual policies currently are far more expensive than employer-based plans, and insurers can refuse to sell an individual policy at any price because of a pre-existing condition.
The healthcare law requires insurers to cover everyone and aims to lower prices by bringing individuals into one large risk pool through the exchanges.
“You now have these marketplaces where they’re going to offer you a better deal through choice and competition,” Obama said.