By Sam Baker - 07/18/13 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama will promote his signature healthcare law to the public on Thursday, focusing on a provision the White House says has saved consumers billions of dollars.
The appearance will be Obama's third public address this year solely on the Affordable Care Act. It comes amid a long-scheduled summer push to improve public perceptions of the healthcare law, but also as the White House seeks to get back on offense following two weeks of bad publicity over its decision to delay part of the law.
Senior administration officials characterized Thursday's speech as a chance to cut through the "abstraction" of the political debate surrounding the healthcare law — the House passed two more symbolic anti-ObamaCare bills on Wednesday — and focus on communicating what the law actually does.
The provision, known as the medical loss ratio, requires insurers to spend 80 or 85 percent of the premiums they collect on medical care, leaving only the remaining 15 or 20 percent for overhead and profits.
The policy has been in place since 2011, and the administration has highlighted its effects repeatedly. But polls still show stubborn public misconceptions about what the healthcare law does and doesn't do, providing an opening to keep focusing on certain popular provisions.
Obama will be flanked Thursday by families who received rebates under the provision because their insurers failed to meet the new standards. According to the White House's count, 8.5 million families have gotten rebates, averaging $100 each, under the provision.
The administration says insurers have also lowered their premiums to comply with the new rules governing their spending, saving consumers roughly $3.4 billion on their premiums last year alone.
ObamaCare also got some much-needed good publicity on Wednesday when state regulators in New York announced that premiums for policies sold through the healthcare law's insurance exchange will be an average of 50 percent lower than currently available policies.
Obama is expected to highlight those results Thursday. His most recent healthcare address came on the heels of a similar announcement in California, where premiums for exchange plans came in well below expectations.
The White House is set to release a report ahead of Obama's remarks highlighting lower-than-expected premiums in 11 states that have filed their initial rate information.
The law's conservative critics dismissed California and New York's experiences as unusual, because both states already had highly regulated insurance markets.
But with 11 states all following the same trend, even those critics "would have to say that when you have all these states lining up, you can't call it an outlier anymore," a senior administration official said.
Costs for a middle-of-the-road insurance policy average roughly $321 per month across the 11 states that have released their rate filings for next year, administration officials said — compared with initial estimates of $392 per month.
The administration is comparing the cheapest policy in the middle tier of benefits to estimates for the second-cheapest policy — not quite apples-to-oranges, and also not a direct comparison.