With passions running high over the fate of Obamacare, President Obama said Thursday there's "no widespread evidence" his national health care program is hurting jobs, even as the administration announced another delay in implementing the law.
In spite of ongoing reports that businesses are cutting back worker hours because of Obamacare, and similar complaints from organized labor, Mr. Obama told students at Prince George's Community College in Largo that the criticism isn't true.
"They said this would be a disaster in terms of jobs," Mr. Obama said. "There's no widespread evidence that the Affordable Care Act is hurting jobs. Reforming health care is going to help the economy over the long term."
But a survey by Investors Business Daily found that as of Wednesday, 313 employers nationwide had cut workers' hours or positions in response to Obamacare's employer mandate. The updated list includes 54 colleges and universities that have trimmed hours for adjunct faculty.
"All over the country, adjunct teaching loads are being limited to nine credit hours — just below the 30-hour threshold at which Affordable Care Act employer penalties hit," IBD reported.
The president's assertion also runs counter to union leaders who warned Congress in July that the health care reform plan is threatening to "destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class."
And despite an administration report this week that insurance rates in the program will be "lower than expected," there's other evidence that premiums will rise steeply. Researchers from the Manhattan Institute, a libertarian think tank, published an article in Forbes magazine Thursday showing that premiums will increase for younger men by an average of 97 percent to 99 percent, and for younger women by an average of 55 percent to 62 percent. In North Carolina, rates will triple for women and quadruple for men.
At virtually the same time Mr. Obama was defending his signature law and blasting the tea party for trying to undermine it, the administration revealed it is postponing for one month online enrollment in most of the small-business exchanges scheduled to open Tuesday.
Instead, business owners initially will have to mail or fax their information so that they can enroll.
Separately, the administration told Hispanic groups that the Spanish-language version of its healthcare.gov website will be not be ready to handle enrollments for a few weeks. An estimated 10 million Hispanics are eligible for coverage.
"Unbelievable," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement. "Did anyone tell the president that his administration is delaying another piece of Obamacare before he tried swindling the American people again? It's clear all Americans deserve a delay from this train wreck; maybe even more Democrats will get on board with Republican efforts now."
The administration received more bad news when Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said he would support a one-year delay in the health care law's individual mandate.
Speaking at a Bloomberg Government breakfast, Mr. Manchin said he backed a stopgap funding resolution that puts the individual mandate on ice.
"There's no way I could not vote for it," Mr. Manchin said. "It's very reasonable and sensible."
Mr. Obama stepped up his criticism of conservatives for trying to repeal or defund the health care law, an effort that is reaching a climax in Congress.
"The Affordable Care Act is here to stay," Mr. Obama told students at the campaign-style rally at Prince George's Community College in suburban Maryland.
"We're only five days away from finishing the job. What is it that these Republicans are so mad about?"
Mr. Obama ridiculed Republicans' criticisms of the law, including one by a New Hampshire lawmaker, state Rep. Bill O'Brien, who called Obamacare "as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act."
"Think about that. Affordable health care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back," Mr. Obama said to boos. "I mean, these are quotes. I'm not making this stuff up."
The president said of Republicans, "They have tried to put up every conceivable roadblock. Some of the tea party's biggest donors, some of the wealthiest men in America, are funding a cynical ad campaign trying to convince young people not to buy health care at all. The closer we get, the more desperate they get."
He added that the GOP is trying to "blackmail" him by linking the fate of the law to measures to raise the nation's debt ceiling and keep the government running.
Although Mr. Obama said he rejects the GOP's argument that the health care program will hurt the economy, he said, "Whatever effect Obamacare might have on the economy ... it wouldn't hurt the economy as much as a government shutdown."
He urged people to visit the program's website, healthcare.gov., and check out the prices.
"Even if you didn't vote for me, I'll bet you sign up for that health care plan," Mr. Obama said. "You don't need to listen to the politicians. You don't need to listen to me."
Mr. Obama's exhortations came a day after Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, carried out a 21-plus hour filibuster on the Senate floor in an attempt to kill the law.
House Republicans have approved a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open beyond Tuesday's deadline with a measure that defunds Obamacare.
Some Republican lawmakers who aren't willing to force a budget showdown over Obamacare are complaining about rough treatment from Mr. Cruz's supporters.
Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, said supporters of the Texas senator have been bombarding his office with "vile" phone calls.
"I'm not saying Ted Cruz is responsible for all his supporters, but he has tapped into a dark strain here in the American political psyche here, and again, the most obscene, profane stuff you can imagine, all from people who say they support the Constitution," Mr. King said. "I think what we have to do is reach out to his people and let them know that they're following a false leader here."
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