Making a year-end pitch to preserve the health care law, the White House said Thursday that GOP efforts to repeal it could force millions of Americans to forfeit affordable health coverage.
Democratic lawmakers joined in the fight, saying that by next year the “reality will overtake the propaganda” when it comes to Obamacare. It is important to preempt any more talk of repealing Obamacare, they added, as Congress digs in for another fight over the debt limit.
“We’re hoping Republicans will come to their senses and realize how valuable the Affordable Care Act is to the American people,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, Texas Democrat.
The public-relations blitz is an attempt to create some momentum behind Mr. Obama’s law in the new year. An estimated 5 million to 6 million Americans recently lost health plans that did not meet Obamacare’s coverage requirements, and the administration is under pressure to get these people enrolled through state-based health exchanges so they do not face a coverage gap in the new year.
The White House released a series of reports Thursday to quantify the law’s past and potential benefits for Americans in each of the states. They said 41 million uninsured Americans will be eligible for Medicaid or to buy private health plans through one of the state-based Obamacare markets, often with the help of government subsidies.
They also reported that 71 million American on private insurance received at a least one preventative care service — such as a mammogram or immunization — in 2011 and 2012, and that up to 129 million people with preexisting conditions will “not have to worry about being denied health coverage or charged higher premiums because of their health status.”
“These are tangible benefits. They are real for hard-working families across the country,” said David Simas, a senior White House adviser.
But widespread glitches ruined the Oct. 1 debut of HealthCare.gov, the web portal that serves 36 states, and some of the 15 state-run health exchanges are not working as planned. The exchanges are supposed to let people shop for private health plans — often with the help of government subsidies — or let people know if they qualify for Medicaid.
Mr. Castro accused Texas’ Republican leaders of espousing a “callous” attitude toward residents of the Lone Star State, which has a relatively high rate of uninsured residents but has chosen not to expand its Medicaid program under Obamacare to those making up to 138 percent of the federal property level.
Republican lawmakers say the expansion is a bad deal for the states. They also say the health overhaul itself is turning into the train wreck they anticipated, citing rising premium costs in some states and the high number of people who lost coverage while the federal and state exchanges struggle to enroll people.
The White House on Thursday insisted that the exchanges have turned a corner and are gathering steam. Mr. Simas cited reports that California is enrolling 15,000 people a day and that New York takes in 5,000 a day. Kentucky takes in 3,000, daily, and Connecticut is processing 2,000, he said.
Plus, supporters say, coverage on the exchanges is more robust than the barebones plans that people in the individual market held before Mr. Obama’s law.
Mr. Castro said that for years, “the insurance system was rigged against the average American,” and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan emphasized the plight of women who held substandard coverage in past years.
“When they really needed it, it wasn’t there,” she said.
Hospitals suffered, too, by picking up the tab for charity care after uninsured Americans without access to primary care flooded their emergency rooms.