Aamer Madhani, USATODAY
WASHINGTON- After spending much of the last two months on the defensive as a result of the rocky roll out of his health care law, President Obama on Tuesday began a pre-holiday campaign to tout the benefits of his signature legislative achievement.
The White House-along with Democratic National Committee and the pro-Obama political group Organizing for Action--say they will spend the next few weeks highlighting how Americans benefit under the law. Consumers must be enrolled in a health care plan by Dec. 23 to be on the insurers' rolls on Jan. 1.
In a speech to mark the beginning of the effort, Obama took aim at Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly called for repeal of the law and attempted to use the troubled implementation to take shots at several vulnerable Democratic lawmakers up for reelection in 2014 who supported the Affordable Care Act.
"We're not repealing it as long as I'm president," said Obama, who was flanked by Americans who have already benefited from aspects of the law. He added, "If I have to fight another three years to make sure that this law works, than that's what I'll do."
The publicity blitz for Obamacare comes after the administration claimed victory in achieving its goal of getting the glitch-riddled HealthCare.gov web site working for the vast majority of Americans by Nov. 30. While consumers are still experiencing some delays on the web site, the White House said that the site had over 1 million visitors to the web site on Monday.
While the administration can claim its made huge strides improving the web site-which serves as the online exchange for 36 states that refused to create their own exchanges-Obama is not out of the woods yet.
Insurers say much of the enrollment data they're received from Americans who have signed up through the health care exchange contains errors-meaning some consumers might not be able to access the benefits on Jan. 1 when it's scheduled to go into effect.
Republicans also seized on Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report released on Tuesday that found that "critical" pieces in security controls failed during testing and that the IRS's existing fraud detection system may not be capable of identifying ACA refund fraud.
The report, however, was completed more than two months ago, and the IRS noted in a response that it has already taken steps to bolster its fraud detection.
"The president's health care law continues to wreak havoc on American families, small businesses and our economy," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters before Obama spoke. "And it's not just a broken website."
But with the improvements to the web site, the White House believes they have now crossed a pivotal hurdle and can now resume making the case to Americans that they are working to meet a huge demand from Americans for affordable health care.
Obama said his hope is to focus attention back on the benefits of law--something he said has been lost with all the attention on the website's problems.
As a result of the law, the president highlighted on Tuesday that Americans are already benefiting from bans prohibiting insurers setting lifetime benefit limits, 7 million seniors and Americans with disabilities have saved $1,200 on prescription drug costs, and 9.5 million families have received refunds from their insurers.
"What's important for everybody to remember is not only has the law helped millions of people but there are millions more that stand to be helped," Obama said. "And we got to make sure they know that."
While several polls have shown that a majority of Americans disapprove of the law, a majority are opposed to a total repeal of the law-giving what the White House and fellow Democrats believes is the upper hand on the issue despite problems with implementation.
Pressed by reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boehner criticized Obama as being out of touch with what Americans want but declined to commit to vote to replacing the president's health care law next year with a Republican plan.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in turn dismissed the president's effort to trumpet the law. The senator's office noted that the latest effort marks at least the thirteenth attempt public relations blitz for the law since 2009.
"Another campaign-style event won't solve the myriad problems facing consumers under Obamacare," McConnell said ahead of Obama's speech.
Obama charged that McConnell and fellow Republicans are disingenuous for repeatedly calling for repeal, but not offering a viable alternative for helping Americans without insurance.
"In despite of all the millions of people who are benefiting from it, you still think this law is a bad idea, you got to tell us specifically what you'd do different to cut costs, cover more people and make insurance more secure," Obama said. "You can't just say the system was working with 41 million without health insurance."