By Noam N. Levey
12:55 PM EDT, July 18, 2013
President Obama, facing a new Republican push to dismantle his healthcare law, redoubled his efforts to sell his signature achievement Thursday at a White House event with Americans who have benefited from the law.
The president pledged to “blow through” GOP attacks on the law and continue working to implement it.
Obama touted recent news from New York, California, Oregon and other states that have reported that insurance companies will charge lower-than-expected premiums next year.
And he highlighted a provision of the law that requires insurance companies to provide rebates if they don’t spend at least 80% of the premiums they receive on their customers’ medical care, rather than administrative expenses, such as executive salaries or dividends for shareholders.
This summer, an estimated 8.5 million Americans will receive rebates totaling about $500 million, according to a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The Affordable Care Act is doing what it is designed to do – deliver more choices, better benefits, a check on rising costs and higher quality healthcare,” Obama said. “In states that are working hard to make sure that this law delivers for their people, what we are seeing is that consumers are getting a hint of how much money they are potentially going to save.”
Affordable premiums are critical to the long-term viability of the 2010 health law, as it provides billions of dollars of government subsidies starting next year to millions of low- and moderate-income Americans who don’t get health coverage at work.
In some states, there is evidence that rates may go down next year for some consumers. New York, for example, announced this week that the average premium will be 50% lower for individuals who buy health coverage on their own, in large part because the state has some of the highest rates now.
In other states, such as California, rates will probably rise for more people, as new requirements in the law make coverage more comprehensive. But the rate increases are not as severe as some feared.
Critics point out that the higher rates – which may be even more pronounced in states that currently have relatively skimpy insurance plans – will come as a shock to many consumers.
Those criticisms are helping to fuel ongoing Republican efforts to repeal the law.
“The picture that the president paints of his healthcare law looks nothing like the reality facing struggling American families,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said. “They know that the law is turning out to be a train wreck.”
Obama’s remarks come after the GOP-led House voted Wednesday to delay two key components of the law – a penalty on large employers that don’t provide health benefits and a mandate requiring most Americans to have health coverage.
The Obama administration announced earlier this month that it would not enforce the employer penalty until 2015, citing the need for more time to set up the complex computer systems for employers to report how many employees they have and what kind of coverage they are offering.
More than 94% of employers with more than 50 employees already provide health benefits.
Most health experts believe that the individual mandate is much more crucial to ensuring successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Though small – the penalty is just $95 for an individual in 2014 – it is designed to encourage younger, healthier consumers to sign up for coverage next year. These healthy consumers are critical to keeping insurance premiums in check.
The White House threatened to veto the House GOP bills, though it is unlikely they will ever get to the president’s desk because Democrats control the Senate.
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