Obama confronts ‘growing pains’ of healthcare law

Obama confronts ‘growing pains’ of healthcare law
© Getty Images

MIAMI — President Obama on Thursday offered a glowing picture of his healthcare law’s first six years, while blaming most of its flaws on Republicans who are still fighting his signature achievement. 

Speaking for 51 minutes in Miami, Obama took credit for reaching a record-low uninsured rate and slowing the growth of healthcare spending. 

“You’re getting better quality, even though you don’t know that ObamaCare is doing it,” he said to a crowd of about 650 students at Miami Dade College. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“Thanks, Obama,” he added to laughs.

The president also acknowledged the “growing pains” of the law, such as double-digit premium hikes and dwindling competition in some states but said such issues could be fixed by the next Congress.

Obama’s speech — likely his last to focus squarely on healthcare — comes at a crucial time for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

There are less than two weeks from the start of open enrollment for 2017, which is being closely watched by health insurance companies as they decide whether to stand by ObamaCare

The White House is also working to drive up support for its signature domestic achievement before an election that will decide the law’s survival, playing up its benefits to anyone with health insurance in the U.S. — not just the exchanges.

Obama's mostly policy-dense speech gave a nod to the “legitimate concerns about how the law is working now.” 

But he carefully sought to separate that criticism from the inflamed political rhetoric of the GOP, blasting the House for voting 60 times to repeal Obamacare without producing a replacement bill. 

And he was quick to blame Republican leaders in statehouses across the country for blocking some of the law’s central programs, such as Medicaid expansion and state-run marketplaces. 

Standing in one of the 19 states that has yet to expand Medicaid, Obama called out Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-led state legislature for opposing the program and choosing not to invest in the marketplaces.

“In states where the governor is hostile to the ACA, it makes it harder to enroll people,” Obama said. “If state leaders purposefully try to make something not work, then it’s not going to run as smoothly as if they were trying to make it work."

Obama hammered Republicans across the country for resisting the law but made it clear that GOP leaders would need to agree to some fixes to help the still-shaky marketplaces. 

“Maybe now that I’m leaving office, maybe Republicans can stop with the 60-something repeal votes they’ve taken and stop pretending they have a serious alternative,” Obama said, adding that major programs such as Social Security and Medicare have all required tweaks since their initial passage.

He joked that the GOP could even change the name of the law to “ReaganCare” or “Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan moving family to Washington Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Ex-Parkland students criticize Kellyanne Conway MORE Care.”

“I don’t care about credit, I just want it to work,” he said as the crowd laughed and cheered. 

Eyeing the election, Obama touted the law’s most popular provisions — such as new protections for young people or patients with pre-existing conditions — that he said are often overlooked. 

He also made a specific attempt to distance ObamaCare from any premium increases that people see from their employer-run plans.    

“It’s not because of any policy in the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up,” he said, adding, “even though sometimes they try to blame ObamaCare.”