President Obama acknowledged late Tuesday that Republicans will never be convinced that his signature health care law is a good idea.
But, he said, the overhaul here to stay and it is time to move on.
“I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles,” he told Congress in his State of the Union Address. “So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice — tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up.”
Mr. Obama is attempting to sell his health care law more than halfway into its inaugural enrollment period. So far, enrollment figures have fallen short of projections after a disastrous web rollout that threatened to kill his reforms in their infancy.
About 2.2 million Americans have signed up for private health coverage through the law’s state-based insurance markets — some with the help of government subsidies — while about 6 million people have enrolled in Medicaid since the law’s balky Oct. 1 launch.
But Mr. Obama made no mention of the extensive glitches that marked the debut of the law’s federal portal, HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states.
Rather than dwell on the law’s struggles, Mr. Obama rebuked House Republicans for holding dozens of votes to repeal all or part of his main domestic achievement.
“The first 40 were plenty. We got it,” he said. “We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.”
His challenge to GOP lawmakers comes one day after a trio of Republican senators introduced their most comprehensive alternative to Obamacare to date.
Their blueprint keeps some of the existing law’s framework — including tax credits for lower-income Americans gain coverage — but eliminates Obamacare’s mandates and state-by-state expansion of Medicaid and pays for its tax credits by shrinking the amount of employer-based insurance that is excluded from taxation.
Much of the debate around Mr. Obama’s overhaul is steeped in anecdotes, and the president shared one about a single mom in Arizona who had a pre-existing condition and, because of the law’s rules, obtained insurance Jan. 1 shortly before emergency surgery.
She would have gone bankrupt, he said, had it not been for his health care law.
“For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system,” he told Congress. “And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that.”
Mr. Obama also doubled down on his vision of health reform by pointing to the likes of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat who leads the only southern state to both expand Medicaid and set up its own health exchange under the new health care law.
Mr. Beshear, who attended the speech, has been unapologetic about his state’s success in rollout out a state-run website that connects residents with private health plans.
“Now Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country — that’s not where I got my highest vote totals. But he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families,” Mr. Obama said of the governor.
Mr. Obama also pleaded with young people to sign up for coverage under his law, because healthier enrollees are crucial to keep premiums in check on the reshaped individual market.
“Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application,” he said. “It will give her some peace of mind – plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.”