President Obama on Tuesday made an emotional plea to protect the Affordable Care Act just weeks before the law could face its biggest legal challenge to date.
In a half-hour speech to the Catholic Health Association on Tuesday, Obama expressed deep disappointment in the many legal and political attacks against the law, which he described as “ceaseless, endless partisan attempts to roll back progress.”
The Obama administration has stepped up its defense of the law in advance of a critical Supreme Court decision.
The court is expected to rule this month on whether subsidies can be provided to people who buy ObamaCare on the federal exchange. If the court rules against the government in King v. Burwell, about 60 percent of ObamaCare recipients now getting subsidies would lose them.
That could be a fatal blow, as such a decision would likely lead to the collapse of ObamaCare marketplaces in more than a dozen GOP-led states.
In his speech, Obama painted his law as the culmination of a centurylong effort to overhaul the American healthcare system, spanning from “Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy.”
He also made a pitch to move beyond the politicking, though support for the law is bitterly divided along party lines.
“Five years in, what we’re talking about is no longer just a law. It’s no longer just a theory. It isn’t even just about the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare. It isn’t about myths or rumors that people try to sustain,” Obama said.
“There’s a reality that people on the ground, day to day, are experiencing. Their lives are better,” he said.
In his longest speech devoted to healthcare in more than a year, Obama rattled off figures about the number of people who gained insurance, the decline in overall medical spending and the years-long streak of job growth under the law.
Obama also recounted his administration’s bitter fight for the Affordable Care Act starting in 2009. He said he ignored warnings about the political perils of pursuing reform because of what he saw as a mounting healthcare crisis.
“By the time I took office, thousands of Americans were losing their healthcare insurance every day,” Obama said. “Tens of millions had no coverage at all.”
“After a century of talk, after decades of trying, after a year of sustained debate, we finally made healthcare reform a reality here in America,” he said.
Aligning with Obama’s speech, the White House rolled out a new website dedicated to healthcare reform that features more than 30 testimonials from people who benefited from the law.
It includes a timeline of healthcare reform starting from 1912, when then-President Theodore Roosevelt first campaigned on “national insurance.” It also includes 18 events from Obama’s tenure, from his joint speech to Congress announcing his reform plans in 2009 to this year’s signup period — 10 million people enrolled.
The White House also released state-by-state data intended to showcase the benefits of the law, such as the drop in the uninsured rate and the number of people with pre-existing conditions who have received new protections.
Each state fact sheet is several pages long and starts with “Here is how the Affordable Care Act is working for families in …”
The Obama administration’s renewed campaign on the successes of the healthcare law has been met with strong opposition from Republicans in Congress.
In a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellGOP torn over what to do next Lobbying world Overnight Healthcare: McConnell throws cold water on reviving ObamaCare repeal | House GOP insists they aren't giving up | Price faces new task of overseeing health law MORE said Obama needed to “get to grips with that reality” and acknowledge that his healthcare law is hurting families who already had insurance.
Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump signs climate order | Greens vow to fight back How 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation Making water infrastructure a priority MORE (R-Wyo.), another sharp critic of ObamaCare, similarly accused the president of ignoring the consequences of the law — which Republicans have increasingly been trying to highlight with the looming court challenge.
“If he gives another rosy speech about the impact of this terrible law, he will be once again intentionally and deliberately misleading the people in his audience,” Barrasso said. “The president should not stand up on the stage today and pretend — pretend that his law is helping more people than it hurts.”