By Sam Baker - 04/30/13 03:53 PM EDT
President Obama said Tuesday that his healthcare law is bound to hit some snags as it comes fully into effect over the next six months.
Asked about Democratic concerns that the implementation could be a "huge train wreck," Obama said the law will be fully implemented on time.
"We've got a great team in place. We are pushing very hard to make sure we are hitting the deadlines and the benchmarks," Obama said.
The president acknowledged the difficult work facing his administration as it scrambles to set up new insurance markets, known as exchanges, by October. Republican governors' resistance to setting up exchanges in their states has made life harder, Obama said.
"Yes, it puts more of a burden on us. And it's ironic, since all these folks say they believe in empowering states," Obama said.
The federal government is building all or part of the exchanges in 33 states, without a dedicated budget.
The Health and Human Services Department has had to scrape together money from various sources, while trying to convince states to set up their own exchanges and draw from an unlimited pool of federal grant money.
"I think it's harder, there's no doubt about it," Obama said.
Although he acknowledged that setting up exchanges on time is a difficult task, Obama downplayed the implications for the overall implementation effort.
Sparked by Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) comments about a "huge train wreck coming down," some Democrats are worried that a flawed rollout of the exchanges will hurt the law's practical success and political standing.
Obama noted that the exchanges are designed to serve a relatively small part of the country: people who buy insurance on their own rather than getting it through an employer.
"For the average American out there … this thing has already happened, and their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure," Obama said.
He cited politically popular provisions that are already in effect, such as allowing children to stay on a parent's healthcare plan through age 26.
Obama said his message to the average American is that "despite all the hue and cry and sky-is-falling predictions about this stuff, the part of ObamaCare that affects you is already in place."
It's true that the exchanges are intended to serve only about 10 to 15 percent of the population. But building the new marketplaces is by far the biggest structural change in the healthcare law, along with a Medicaid expansion that was weakened when the Supreme Court declared it optional in its ruling on the law last year.
"The challenge is that setting up a market-based system … that's still a big, complicated piece of business," Obama said.