- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

President Obama acknowledged Wednesday that Republicans’ push to repeal the health care overhaul is good politics for the GOP, but said such a move would cause people to lose insurance they’ve gained under the law over the past six months.

“It makes sense in terms of politics,” the president said, though he added, “It doesn’t make sense in terms of actually making people’s lives better.”

The assessment sums up Democrats’ dilemma heading into November’s elections, as arguably the biggest achievement of Mr. Obama’s tenure remains unpopular with voters, and he and fellow party leaders have struggled to convince them otherwise.

Democrats hope the start of new protections Thursday under the law’s “Patients’ Bill of Rights” to change the political calculus, and the White House has released on its website snapshots of 50 people, one in each state, who are benefiting from the requirements of the new law.

But for now, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said health care “is undeniably radioactive” for Democrats and House Republicans are campaigning ahead of November’s elections on promises to repeal the law or at least starve the administration of funds to continue implementing it.

“Obamacare unconstitutionally intrudes on Americans’ personal health care decisions, fails to curb rising costs, and adds more to an already skyrocketing debt,” said Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, medical doctor and chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “It must be repealed and replaced with smarter, patient-centered solutions like those Republicans have proposed throughout this debate.”

A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll taken last week found 44 percent supported repealing the law and 43 percent opposed that course of action.

Even some conservative-leaning congressional Democrats are campaigning against the health care law, including running ads touting their votes against Mr. Obama on the issue.

But Democratic leaders said repealing the law would short-circuit it just as more consumer protections take effect.

On Thursday, which marks six months since the law was signed, insurance companies can no longer set lifetime dollar limits on benefits and can’t deny coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions. Also as of Thursday, parents will be allowed to keep their children on their insurance coverage until the children turn 26.

Standing on a patio in the backyard of Paul and Frances Brayshaw in Falls Church, Va., Mr. Obama heard from Americans who have already benefited from companies complying with the new law.

Gail O’Brien, a cancer patient from New Hampshire, said she gained high-risk pool coverage, while Dawn Josephson said her 4-year-old son Wesley’s pre-existing conditions are now covered.

Mr. Obama said those could be lost if Republicans’ repeal efforts succeed.

“I want them to look you in the eye and say, ‘Sorry, Gail, you can’t buy health insurance,’ or ‘Sorry, little Wes,’ he’s going to be excluded when it comes to an eye operation that he might have to get in the future. I don’t think that’s what this country stands for,” Mr. Obama said.

The health care bill passed with no Republican support in the Senate and just a single Republican’s vote in the House. Several states have passed legislation trying to opt out of some provisions, and attorneys general in a host of states have sued to try to block some of the law’s mandates.

Republican lawmakers in Washington have questioned whether Congress will follow through on the major cuts to Medicare spending and the future tax increases that will be required to pay for some of the new benefits.

They said Wednesday that the administration has stonewalled Congress’ efforts to pin down key details about how the law will be carried out.

They’ve refused to testify at oversight hearings, failed to fully respond to letters requesting information, and bypassed the Senate with a recess appointment of Donald Berwick to head the agency responsible for implementing this law,” said Sen Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

But several small business owners told the president Wednesday they’ve been helped by the new law.

After chatting with auto-shop owner Jim Hawthorne, Mr. Obama pulled him over to reporters to tell his story as a small-business owner.

Mr. Hawthorne said his premiums have been going up dramatically every year. He said he talked with his accountant and said he will get between $12,000 and $15,000 in a tax break because of the health care law. When he called his broker, he said, he predicted that when the insurance policy is up for renewal in November premiums will go up only 3 percent.

“That’s like going back to 2008. It’s like a time machine for our premiums,” he said.

The debate carried over to residents in the Falls Church neighborhood where Mr. Obama was speaking. One group welcomed Mr. Obama with signs that read “We Still believe” and “You’re Doing a Good Job,” while another small group protested a few blocks away, with one holding a sign that read “Nobama Care For Us.”

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