Amid growing concerns about the implementation of President Obama’s health care law, Mr. Obama stepped up promotion of the law by pegging its benefits to this weekend’s Mother’s Day celebration.
Speaking against a backdrop of women at the White House Friday, Mr. Obama tried to allay fears about how the health care law will operate this fall when people without insurance will be able to apply for coverage through new state insurance “exchanges.”
“With something as personal as health care there are people who are nervous and anxious that we’re going to get this thing done right,” he said. “I want to tell you, I’m 100 percent committed to getting this right.”
Bemoaning the politics involved in criticizing the health care overhaul, he argued the majority of the American people support the new law and pointed to his 2012 re-election as proof.
“Six months ago, the American people went to the polls and decided to keep going in this direction so the law is here to say,” he said.
He also touted the benefits the health care law he said it is already providing, including allowing 3.1 million children to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 27; bars insurance companies from denying service to people with pre-existing conditions; and institutes cost controls for prevention services like mammograms.
The White House event began with a statement from Carol Metcalf, whose son Justin suffers from a traumatic brain injury and a rare genetic disease and was able to remain on his parents’ insurance even after his undergraduate college years.
“As a family, I have to say, we’ve had a huge burden lifted,” she said. “Now my [children’s] future is up to them.”
The direct appeal to women and mothers came one day after the White House announced a new $150 million initiative Thursday to get uninsured Americans covered under the new health care law.
The administration will direct the $150 million to 1,200 community health centers to hire and train thousands of workers who will help people obtain coverage through new subsidized online marketplaces and an expanded Medicaid program for the poor.
Democrats are turning their public outreach on behalf of the law in an effort to head off political fallout at the polls in next year’s congressional midterm elections if implementation does not go well later this year and into 2014.
Retiring Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, caused a stir earlier this month when he warned at a hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that implementing the federal health care law could be a “train wreck” over the next few years.
The Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, later said he agreed with Mr. Baucus’ comments that a “huge train wreck is coming” if the president’s health care overhaul isn’t implemented properly. But unlike Republicans who would like to repeal the law, Mr. Reid said additional money is needed to make it operate correctly.
Anticipating a Democratic summer campaign to bolster the health care law, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, told Mr. Obama on Thursday they would not participate in picking members of a controversial panel called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, which the law created to recommend ways to restrain Medicare spending if program costs growth exceeds set targets.
“We believe Congress should repeal IPAB, just as we believe we ought to repeal the health care law,” Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell said in the letter.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the move would only serve to anger an American public he said is sick of political posturing.
“The fact that Republicans have continued to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I believe, demonstrates how out of touch they are with the American people, who are tired of efforts by Republicans to re-fight the political battles of the past,” Mr. Carney said.
House Republicans have voted to repeal or cut funding for the law more than 30 times, and they plan to hold a vote again next week on another repeal. That effort will serve as a public demonstration against the bill, but it has no chance of final passage with Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House.