Obama to Iowa newspaper: Healthcare law isn't 'scary monster' painted by GOP

Healthcare reform hasn't turned out to be as scary as Republicans have portrayed it, according to President Obama. 

Obama, who regularly defends his signature healthcare law on the stump, brushed aside GOP criticism during an interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board in which he made his case for the paper's endorsement. 

Obama raised the issue of healthcare as he said he hopes to tackle immigration reform and deficit reduction in a second term, after the partisan rancor over his first-term achievements has subsided.

"So assume that you get those two things done in the first year, and we're implementing Wall Street reform, Obamacare turns out not to have been the scary monster that the other side has painted. Now we're in a position where we can start on some things that really historically have not been ideological," Obama said.

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The interview was initially conducted off the record, but a transcript was released Wednesday.

Obama also defended the decision to pursue healthcare reform early in his administration, telling the editorial board that the focus did not distract from the economy.

GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney has accused Obama of focusing on healthcare instead of jobs, arguing that the recovery might be stronger if Obama had not spent more than a year pushing healthcare reform through the Democratic-controlled Congress.

"Our health care system is one-sixth of our economy. And if we have a situation where spending on health care at every level is going up at 6, 7, 10 percent a year, and we’ve got millions of people without coverage or inadequate coverage, the suggestion that that’s not a central economic priority for the country is just something that I wouldn’t buy," Obama said.

He also noted that Congress passed the stimulus before healthcare, and said Republicans wouldn't have been any more cooperative on more stimulus than they were on healthcare.

"And the suggestion somehow that if we hadn’t pursued Obamacare, somehow we would have gotten additional stimulus out of the Republicans, for example, that we could have primed the pump more, that’s just not borne out by any of the evidence," he said.