President Obama said he can't turn around public opinion on his signature healthcare law with a public-relations push, but insisted that the law will be popular once it is fully implemented.
Polls show the healthcare law is unpopular, and its approval ratings are falling. Disapproval topped 50 percent in a CBS News poll last week.
Obama said in an interview with The New York Times that the law will gain popularity once key provisions take effect next year and people are able to more easily purchase insurance.
"But until then, when we’re getting outspent four to one and people are just uncertain about what all this means for them, we’re going to continue to have some polls like that," Obama said. "And me just making more speeches explaining it in and of itself won’t do it. The test of this is going to be is it working. And if it works, it will be pretty darn popular."
The administration has ramped up its public-relations push recently, bringing on new healthcare communications strategists and enlisting celebrities to help encourage people to sign up for new coverage options.
Obama has also made three speeches just since May about the law. But he downplayed those efforts in the Times interview, saying full implementation is the real test.
"Over the course of six months to a year, as people sign up, and it works, and lo and behold, the people who already have health insurance are not being impacted at all other than the fact that their insurance is more secure and they are getting free preventive care, and all the nightmare scenarios and the train wrecks and the 'sky is falling' predictions that come from the other side do not happen, then health care will become more popular," Obama said.
The key deadline in the administration's implementation push is Oct. 1. That's when new insurance marketplaces known as exchanges are supposed to open in each state, to begin enrolling people in private insurance plans that begin Jan. 1, 2014.
Most people who buy insurance through an exchange will receive tax subsidies to help cover the cost of their premiums.