- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

President Obama hopes to bat away talk of web glitches and cancellation notices in a visit Wednesday to Boston, where he’ll highlight the success of health reforms in Massachusetts that served as the template for Obamacare, administration officials said.

In remarks at historic Faneuil Hall, Mr. Obama will tout the bipartisan push in 2006 to make “Romneycare” succeed and the enrollment surge that saw people sign up for coverage at the last minute.

White House officials said they did not invite former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who led the state’s health-reform efforts and lost to Mr. Obama in November’s presidential election, to take part.

Instead, Mr. Obama got a pre-speech boost on Tuesday from the architects of Massachusetts’ reforms, even as he’s battered from all sides by questions about a federal website that’s struggling to link people from 36 states with insurance options and by new complaints about cancellation notices that are forcing people off their existing health plans.

The Affordable Care Act’s launch is much larger in scale than Massachusetts’ effort seven years ago, but the state’s success offers a valid look at what’s to come if Americans are patient, said Jon Gruber, an MIT professor who worked on Mr. Romney’s health reforms and then Mr. Obama’s, and Jon Kingsdale, the founding executive director of Massachusetts Health Connector.

Sign-ups in Massachusetts spiked in the late months of the initial enrollment period, they said, a hint that Obamacare’s early web problems with the federal website will not have lasting damage.

Republican critics of the law are unlikely to be swayed by the president’s remarks on one state’s success, after fighting for three years to undo the signature law that Democratic majorities muscled through Congress in 2010.

They say the overhaul is unfair to Americans — especially young people who might have to pay more for insurance to subsidize sicker people entering the market — and could serve as a backdoor to government-run, single-payer health care in America.

Mr. Gruber said it bothers him when people claim the new health care law is a governmental intrusion on health care.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” he said on the conference call.

Mr. Gruber said the system leveraged competition among private health insurers to drive down premiums.

Mr. Kingsdale said the state now enjoys “an extremely competitive” insurance market, but that Americans must be patient enough to see that promise fulfilled nationwide.

Health insurance, he said, is a bit of a “tough sale” and a “grudge buy” for many people.

“It’s a bit of a daunting effort, and I think it will take time,” he said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”