- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2013

President Obama on Saturday offered one of his strongest defenses to date of his signature domestic achievement, lambasting Republican critics of his health care law as obstructionists who are playing politics with the well-being and economic security of millions of Americans.

In blunt terms, Mr. Obama used his weekly address to describe health insurance as a “right” and distinguished states that have embraced his law against those that have not.

He said the Affordable Care Act is already helping young adults stay on their parents’ health plans and offering free preventative care. 

“But there’s also a group of Republicans in Congress working hard to confuse people, and making empty promises that they’ll either shut down the health care law, or, if they don’t get their way, they’ll shut down the government,” he said.

“Think about that,” he added. “They’re actually having a debate between hurting Americans who will no longer be denied affordable care just because they’ve been sick — and harming the economy and millions of Americans in the process.  And many Republicans are more concerned with how badly this debate will hurt them politically than they are with how badly it’ll hurt the country.”

His defense of the law comes less than two months before state-by-state insurance markets, or “exchanges,” start to enroll Americans without employer-based insurance who may buy coverage with the help of government subsidies.

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Mr. Obama is attempting to counteract critics who say the law’s mandates amount to an unprecedented intrusion on Americans personal health care decisions and could cause premiums to soar, as it requires insurers to cover more services and people with pre-existing conditions.

House Republicans have voted roughly 40 times to repeal either all or part of the health care law, and Senate conservatives want to use the upcoming spending debate as leverage in the fight to defund “Obamacare.”

“A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they’ll somehow be sticking it to me,” Mr. Obama said. “But they’d just be sticking it to you … Some even say that if you call their office with questions about the law, they’ll refuse to help.  Call me old-fashioned — but that’s lousy constituent service.  And it’s not what you deserve.”\

He said states like California, New York, Colorado and Maryland are revealing the true potential of his law, because they embraced it from the start.

“So I’m going to keep doing everything in my power to make sure this law works as it’s supposed to,” he said. “Because in the United States of America, health insurance isn’t a privilege — it is your right.  And we’re going to keep it that way.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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